Ayo Akingbade wins the Brewers Award for her work submitted to Towner International

Posted on 4/05/2021

Photo: Scott Gallagher

Towner Eastbourne and Brewers Decorator Centres are delighted to announce that Ayo Akingbade – artist, writer, and filmmaker – has won the Brewers Award for her work submitted to Towner International, the gallery’s new biennial exhibition of contemporary art. 

The award includes a £10,000 prize, sponsored by Brewers, plus mentorship from the Towner team across the next year.

Akingbade, who is based in London, was awarded for her film Dear Babylon (2019). In this work, which is just over 20 mins long, and set in the East End of London, we see the story of a trio of art students eager to raise awareness about their neighbourhood, especially the lives of tenants and people who work on the estate. The work is set against the backdrop of the future of social housing being threatened by the AC30 Housing Bill. It has also been described by the art periodical Hyperallergic as ‘A Poignant Ode to Public Housing’.

This decision to award Akingbade was reached in consultation with the Brewers Award selection panel who are: Deborah Smith (Director, Arts Council Collection), Anne Hardy (Artist) and Mark Brewer (Brewers Decorator Centres Chairman) who shared an enthusiasm and respect for the work and Akingbade’s practice.

Ayo Akingbade said, “I’m so happy to be recognised for this inaugural prize, and to be supported with mentorship and money to develop my practice, it’s an absolute dream.” 

‘Dear Babylon​’, 16mm and HD video, colour, sound, 21 min, installation view. Photo: Rob Harris.

Anne Hardy said, “Ayo’s film stood out for me for the way she skillfully suspends us in a shifting ground of fiction and fact, to explore pressing issues of housing and individual agency, and filmmaking itself.  I am excited about the potential of the award to support this young artist in her next steps.”

Joe Hill, Director, Towner Eastbourne, said, “Congratulations to Ayo – we are thrilled to be able to award her for this moving piece of work, which was enjoyed so much by so many of our audience members in the gallery during Towner International, and which is an insightful comment on such a pressing issue of our times. Both myself and Noelle Collins look forward to developing our relationship with Ayo, an exciting and promising artist, and to supporting her in the coming year as mentors”.

Mark Brewer, Chairman of Brewers Decorator Centres, said “The Brewers Award was established to recognise the important work of one of the exhibiting artists in Towner International and to support the continuation of their practice. It was fantastic to see such a variety of art on display (in our home town of Eastbourne) from artists working locally, nationally and internationally. The exceptional skill of the exhibiting artists certainly made judging the Award challenging. However, we’re delighted to announce that Ayo Akingbade has been granted the £10,000 Brewers Award, chosen for her thought-provoking moving image work Dear Babylon (2019) and we look forward to seeing her future projects.”

Deborah Smith, Director, Arts Council Collection, said, “Wonderful to explore Towner International’s eclectic mix of talented exhibiting artists. The first Brewers Award is timely in supporting an early career artist after this exceptionally difficult year and I’m delighted that we awarded the prize to Ayo Akingbade who will shine bright”.

Towner International is Towner Eastbourne’s biennial exhibition of contemporary art. Following an open call, 24 artists were selected by an esteemed panel including Polly Staple (Director of Collection, British Art, Tate), Turner Prize-nominated artist Mike Nelson, and Noelle Collins (Curator, Towner Eastbourne).

Ayo Akingbade currently appears as part of An Infinity of Traces at the Lisson Gallery, and We Are Here at Centro Centro. A Glittering City: Ayo Akingbade with Duchamp & Sons opens at the Whitechapel Gallery on 19 May 2021.

Photo: Scott Gallagher


The Brewers Award is generously provided by Brewers Decorator Centres, the country’s leading independent supplier of decorating materials. Founded in Eastbourne in 1904, Brewers is a family-run business with a focus on delivering a high standard of service and expert advice.