A Burntwood-based nursery business has unveiled the winner of an art competition held in memory of one of its founders.

John Woodward OBE

John Woodward OBE died last year, but the coronavirus pandemic prevented Busy Bees from hosting a memorial event.

So the employer – which operates nurseries across the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada, USA, Singapore and Malaysia – decided to launch the art contest with £10,000 worth of prizes on offer.

The competition saw a panel of judges select a portrait by Sarah Devlin from Cumbernauld as the winner.

She said of her £6,000 prize:

Sarah Devlin alongside her portrait of John Woodward OBE

“One of the best parts of portraiture is being able to capture someone’s personality without having met them.

“Upon reading about John, I discovered just how many lives he touched, and how well-regarded he was as a compassionate and selfless individual.

“By focusing the warmest colours on John, I brought this to life, and it is an honour to have been selected as the winner.

“I hope that the painting will serve as a cherished reminder of John, and the impact he had on the lives of so many others.”

Sarah Devlin

The winning painting will be displayed in Busy Bees headquarters in Burntwood, while the other artworks from finalists Elysia Gilman, from St Asaph, and Ben Wilshaw-Quinn, from Bedford, will be displayed at the company’s Singapore headquarters.

Marg Randles OBE, co-founder of Busy Bees, added:

“We wanted to find a way of supporting young people, as John always did, and creating a fitting tribute in his memory that honours his thoughtful and unique character, while also celebrating his brilliance in the childcare sector.

“John was keen to create as many opportunities as possible for young people, which is why we decided to host a competition for students, rather than commission an artist to create the visual tribute.

“Sarah, Elysia and Ben are all incredibly talented, and we hope that the prize money helps them to develop and flourish even further as artists.”

Marg Randles OBE

John, who was a qualified special needs teacher, founded Busy Bees alongside the Randles and Thackery family, opening their first centre in Lichfield in 1984.

The company has since grown and now operates 350 sites across the UK and a further 270 around the globe.

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