Record number of young people enter ‘big picture’ competition

Thirty thousand young people from across the globe have taken part in a major competition to express their views on some of the biggest questions in life through art. A record-beating total of 3,196 entries from 523 schools were submitted for judging, an 18 per cent increase on last year.

The Spirited Arts competition, created and managed by the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE), attracts thousands of entries from countries around the world every year. Young people are invited to develop works of art that explore important topics relating to religion and worldviews, ranging from the existence of God, to climate change, and human division.

Since its inception in 2004, the competition has attracted around 500,000 participants, with hundreds of UK schools getting involved. This year entries came from 15 different countries, including Australia, Bahrain and Thailand. Two of the 27 winning entries came from outside the UK.

Categories in the 2022 competition included ‘God’s Good Earth?’, which invited pupils to explore the threat of climate change and the beauty of the earth, ‘Searching for God’, where pupils considered their personal search for God, regardless of whether they are atheist, agnostic, or believers in God, and ‘A view of the world’, where pupils were encouraged to explore their own worldview.

The competition is supported by the Jo Cox Foundation. This year entrants were invited to develop a creative response to the 2015 quote from the late Jo Cox MP “we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us”.

Michelle Gregson, General Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD), said:

“Art is one of the most powerful forms of self-expression for young people. It lends itself perfectly to exploring essential questions concerning life and what it means to be human. For centuries, religion, belief, and philosophy have been at the root of artistic movements. The entries to this year’s Spirited Arts competition continue that tradition and are extraordinarily powerful, highlighting that these questions matter to young people.”

Lat Blaylock, leader of the Spirited Arts competition and Teacher Adviser at RE Today said: 

“The quality of the artwork we receive and the deep expressions of young people’s worldviews and perspectives on religion and belief never ceases to amaze us. The competition provides a way for pupils to explore these important issues and express their thoughts through art outside the traditional classroom. The results are often deeply thought-provoking and inspirational.”

Kim Leadbeater, MP, sister of the late Jo Cox, said:

"It’s heart-warming to see the words of my sister, Jo Cox, continuing to resonate and inspire young people. She believed passionately in strong communities where people of all faiths and none can find connections through shared values of compassion and mutual respect, and art is a powerful way of expressing and communicating all that we have in common. The growing number of entries to this competition speaks volumes about the importance of religion and worldviews for young people who, in an age of consumerism and technology, are clearly still fascinated by the big questions in life and are keen to understand their own personal worldview. These excellent competition entries play a vital role in highlighting the importance of good religious education in education, society and the workplace. Congratulations to everyone involved in this powerful competition.”

Fiona Moss, Chief Executive Officer of NATRE, added: 

“The topics and questions that entrants explore are often discussed in classrooms around the country every day in religious education lessons. They are the big questions in life, those that shape the way we see the world, and the way others see it. That so many young people are keen to explore these themes through Spirited Arts shows just how important these questions are and how important RE is for life in today’s globalised world.”

Spirited Arts is now open for entries to the 2023 competition. 

All artistic mediums are encouraged, and entrants have previously used paintbrushes, pens and pencils as well as collage, sculpture, stop motion, poetry, performance and photographic skills.