Create! has brought together a varied group of judges, all of whom have a personal understanding of how art can develop experiential-based learning, instill life-long skills and promote a more rewarding life in the SEN community.
We are very grateful for their support and agreeing to bring their enthusiasm and creative appreciation to the judging process.
Visionary artist Mahlia Amatina invites people into a multi-sensory experience of colour, line, shape and form through tactile art that explores the creative side of neurodiversity. Drawing inspiration from the varied landscapes and rich flavours of her international roots and global travels.
After being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2015, Mahlia was inspired to share the unique sensory experiences of life on the autism spectrum through her art.
For Mahlia, art heals and transforms, and expands the experience of living. Her mission includes creating communities through the combination of art and advocacy around the globe.
Mahlia has been awarded Arts Council England (ACE) funding twice, and has been featured as one of the Top 50 Influential Neurodiverse Women of 2019 by Women Beyond the Box.
Steve Knapik MBE has 35 years of teaching experience. He was Head of Faculty, Creative Arts, at Pen Y Dre High School, Merthyr Tydfil, retiring in 2012.
Steve is currently Chairman of Examiners for GCSE Art & Design for both WJEC and Eduqas, and a proud Governor at Pen Y Cwm Special School, Ebbw Vale.
In October 2011 Steve was awarded an MBE for his services to children in Merthyr Tydfil and Poland.
He is an artist and independent art consultant and Chair of his Children's Charity - Blue Balloon.
Ben is Artistic Director at Hijinx theatre company, the award-winning, not-for-profit professional theatre company based in Wales, which casts learning disabled actors in award-winning productions which tour the world.
Ben has devised and directed numerous productions for the company, including the company’s 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe hit show Meet Fred, which has now been translated into 11 languages, toured throughout Europe, to the US, South Korea and China and continues be in high demand. His most recent production, The Flop, was shortlisted for a Total Theatre Award at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Ben has been working with SEN artists for 20 years. In his time at Hijinx he has introduced the Hijinx Academies (ongoing training for performers with learning disability and/or autism), the Hijinx Unity Festival (an international festival of disability and inclusive arts), and the Hijinx residencies (a series of masterclasses delivered by some of the leading theatre companies in the UK).
Neil Is a painter from South Wales. He has taught Art and Design in Further and Higher Education since 1998 and has lectured on the Art and Design Foundation course, at Coleg Y Cymoedd, for the last twenty years.
Neil has previously worked with Beechwood College under its Strategic Insight Program, and developed a keen understanding of the importance and benefits of accessing opportunities for creative expression for people with special education needs.
Over the last three years, Neil has continued to develop his own personal creative skill set by studying at the Broadway drawing school in Cardiff, where he has specialised in life drawing, anatomy and oil painting.
Anna Kennedy OBE is the mother of two boys who are both affected by autism. In 1999, having been turned away from no fewer than 26 special needs schools when searching for appropriate educational facilities for her sons, she took matters into her own hands and opened Hillingdon Manor School. In 2008 Anna co-authored her bestselling biography ‘Not Stupid’ which poignantly portrayed her struggle to find appropriate provision for her boys.
Anna was named the Daily Mail’s most Inspirational Woman of the Year 2010 and was Tesco’s Mum of the Year 2013. In 2016 Anna received the Best Humanitarian Award from the International Achievements Recognition Awards, and in 2018 she was recognised by Amnesty International for her pioneering support for children with Autism.
Aaron Yorke was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (AS) when he was 30 years old.
A former special needs teacher, Aaron is now a successful professional photographer but still consults with Birmingham schools on strategies to raise awareness of Asperger's Syndrome.
He now also runs the autism advisory service ‘Accepting Behaviour’ which is a free online service with blogs and live Facebook and YouTube sessions.
Aaron is also well known to a Midlands audience as a singer/songwriter, music producer and tv/film score writer, and has supported acts such as Leona Lewis, McFly and Scouting for Girls.
Nadine is the Founder and CEO of The Autism Directory Charity which helps people with autism get the help they need. Over the 10 years since it began the charity has grown to provide all kinds of help and support, and prides itself on having a diverse team of people employed, with over 60% being on the autism spectrum.
The charity also has its own TAD Creative team who are 100% autistic, and provide all the design and art services for the charity and other businesses too. www.autismdirectorycharity.com
Nadine is also a governor at Ysgol Y Deri Special School in the Vale of Glamorgan, and mum to a teenager with severe autism and learning disabilities.
Liam Ashworth is a practicing artist as well as a workshop facilitator, schools’ Learning Mentor and Steering Group member at Manchester-based Venture Arts. Venture Arts is an award-winning visual arts charity which sets out to support people with Learning Disabilities to reach their full potential through arts and culture.
Liam’s own artwork has been exhibited extensively; most recently as part of HOME's Manchester Open Exhibition in January 2020.
As a Learning Mentor he regularly works on projects with local school groups where he shares his creative skills and supports young people to make their own artwork. Through the Steering Group he makes decisions about the way in which Venture Arts is run, plans events and shapes projects. He is currently working with theatre company ODD Arts, to develop and deliver a training programme for youth work professionals.
Rorie Fulton is a Director of Autism Wellbeing, a not-for-profit social enterprise supporting autistic people and their families.
Rorie is a qualified primary school teacher and has also worked as an oral historian and a mental health advocate.
He loves running Autism Wellbeing and is always happy to talk on the phone with autistic people, parents and professionals.
Autism Wellbeing provides a range of services to autistic people and their families, including Responsive Communication support, specialist psychological support, diagnostic assessment for autism, telephone helpline and equipment loan.