Young composer scoops award

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The Independent Culture

The composer Luke Bedford has not yet turned 30, but his works have already been performed by the Hallé Orchestra and the London Sinfonietta. Phyllida Barlow, a sculptor in her sixties, is thinking about retirement from her post as professor of fine art at the Slade. Despite their difference in age, both are winners of the UK's largest arts awards.

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation Awards give five visual artists and three composers £45,000 each, a £15,000 increase on 2006. The money is spread out over three years to enable the artists to devote time to their art, when they might otherwise have had to take part-time jobs to supplement their work.

In the visual arts, the award is often seen as a gateway to the Turner Prize. Previous recipients include the Turner Prize winners Tomma Abts and Jeremy Deller as well as Phil Collins and Anya Gallaccio, who have been shortlisted.

The 2003 Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry was one of this year's panel of nominators – arts professionals who each put forward a list of names to be considered for the awards. A judging panel including Collins then selected the five visual arts winners, while a separate panel chose the composers.

Barlow, born in 1944, creates her large-scale works from everyday materials including cardboard, paper, glue and adhesive tape. She said the award would allow her "to develop my working activities without the anxiety of financial difficulties". "It gives freedom to the more private aspects of making work," she said. "It's an incredible support to the whole activity of being an artist."

Bedford, the youngest composer to win an award, started composing when he was at school and went on to study under Simon Bainbridge at the Royal College of Music.

In 2000, he won the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Composition. His work for large orchestra, Rode With Darkness, was premiered by the Hallé, while his latest commission, Outblaze the Sky, was premiered at the Barbican. "It gives me a real freedom to construct the work I want to and to focus on my composing," he said.

To supplement his income, Bedford has been copying music for different sections of the orchestra. "There isn't always that much money in contemporary music," he admitted.

The other visual art winners are Claire Barclay, Michael Fullerton, Ryan Gander and Mark Leckey. The other winning composers are Iain Ballamy and Jonathan Lloyd.