With the WI nationally suspending branch meetings and U3As following suit, individually at least, as their necessary response to the pandemic, cancellations for my talks are coming in daily. Fingers crossed that we can resume later in the year, though that is by no means certain.
Given that the average age of my audiences for talks is 70+ I’ve been expecting coronavirus cancellations, and the first one just came in, from Radlett League of Jewish Women, Hertfordshire, whose lunch I was due to speak at in May. Unfortunate but quite understandable.
More cheering news is that Enderby U3A are pressing on with their monthly meeting on Wednesday where I will be entertaining them with my ‘Oprah Winfrey Touched My Elbow’ talk, featuring funny stories from my encounters with Eric Morecambe, Liz Hurley, David Attenborough, Keith Floyd, Frank Ifield and many more former interviewees.
Winners Moira Stuart and Samira Ahmed – Pics, Broadcasting Press Guild
Yesterday’s 46th annual Broadcasting Press Guild Awards came within a whisker of cancellation but after what must have been a very difficult meeting for the volunteer journalists who organise the whole event (three cheers for them), the news came through by email at 7.31pm that the awards lunch would indeed go ahead, albeit with extra precautions about contact and hygiene and without some of the award-winning talent that had originally intended to be there.
So, we were without Best Actress Glenda Jackson and also Bill Paterson, originally down to pick up the Best Comedy gong on behalf of Phoebe Waller-Bridge (who sent a gracious video acceptance) for Fleabag series 2. I met her at these awards two years ago when she won Best Writer but was pipped (to my great dismay and frankly bafflement at the time) for best comedy by BBC2’s Mum. This time the reverse was true.
We also had apologies from Stephen Graham, who has had an incredible year with The Virtues, Line of Duty and A Christmas Carol (not to mention The Irishman).
Veteran newsreader Moira Stuart was there to accept the Harvey Lee Award for her outstanding contribution to broadcasting, looking great and treating us to an entertaining speech, all spoken in those wonderfully dulcet tones that could melt the butter off your plate.
Other big winners on the day were the immense Chernobyl (Best Drama) and Craig Mazin (the series’ writer)plus Michael Apted for the unique Up series – 7 Up and all its sequels, and although Michael couldn’t be there he was represented wonderfully well by East End taxi driver Tony Walker. As a youngster Tony almost made it as a jockey but made a great success of his alternative career as a cabbie, although he told me how much harder he had to work for the same return thanks to Uber. He’s a great character – I just checked out some past footage with a brief Google search and there’s lovely stuff from when he was seven and when he was 49, telling how he had moon astronaut Buzz Aldrin in his cab, but when asked for an autograph it was Tony’s signature that was wanted, not his passenger’s. He asked me how he came over in the programme and seemed happy with my response – “ebullient”. Tony not only delivered Michael Apted’s acceptance speech with aplomb but prefaced it with his own impromptu words about how much Michael and the series meant to him. Tony was choked with emotion as he said this. It was very moving.
At lunch I sat with the young women who made the Radio Programme of the Year – Hooked: The Unexpected Addicts. They were great company but not being a Radio 5 Listener (pure Radio 4, sorry girls) I didn’t know the programme and was astonished when the two personable presenters Melissa Rice and Jade Wye accepted their awards from former BBC media correspondent Torin Douglas and confessed to having been former addicts, addicted to alcohol in one case and drugs in the other (not sure which was which). You can still download the programmes – I definitely will – and series two has been commissioned.
To ensure I miss no one out, here’s the BPG’s press release on the winners, in full. Before that, I’m sorry my phone photos feature no close-ups and mostly aren’t usable, so pics here are courtesy of the BPG.
Glenda Jackson has been named best actress at this year’s Broadcasting Press Guild Awards, for her first screen appearance in 27 years. The award, voted for by journalists who write about television and radio, was for her role as Maud, a dementia sufferer, in BBC One’s adaptation of Emma Healey’s best-selling novel, Elizabeth Is Missing.
Now aged 83, the double-Oscar winner last appeared on screen in 1992. She returned to acting in 2015, after 23 years in Parliament as a Labour MP.
The 46th BPG Awards lunch, sponsored by Virgin Media, took place today at Banking Hall in the City of London, attended by the winners, BPG members and leading broadcasting executives. (Full list of winners below). The BPG Awards – given for work commissioned or premiered in the UK and screened in 2019 – are highly prized by programme-makers because they are selected independently by TV and radio correspondents, critics and previewers.
The distinguished film and television director Michael Apted was awarded the BPG Jury Prize, for the Up Series which began in 1964 as Seven Up – a profile of 14 seven-year-old children for the current affairs series World In Action. As a young researcher, Apted was involved in selecting the children and over the past 56 years the series has become an institution, revisiting the subjects every seven years, with Apted directing every series from 2 to 9.
The BPG award for best actor went to Stephen Graham, for his performances in three dramas, Line of Duty, Series 5 (BBC One), A Christmas Carol (BBC One) and The Virtues (Channel 4).
The Virtues just pipped Elizabeth Is Missing to win the BPG award for best single drama or mini-series. Chernobyl (Sky Atlantic) was named best drama series – and its screenwriter, Craig Mazin, won the award for best writer, just beating Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag, Series 2).
But Fleabag (BBC Three and Amazon Prime Video) ran away with the award for best comedy, with three times as many votes as the runner-up. The Graham Norton Show (BBC One) was named best entertainment show.
Jake Kanter, BPG Chair, said: “I’m proud to say that, for the second year in a row, a record number of votes were cast for the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards, which is testament to the enduring qualities of the BPG and the continued vibrancy of British television. Congratulations to all the winners.”
Channel Four News and ITN won the BPG award for best single documentary with For Sama (Channel Four and PBS Frontline), a film by Waad Al-Kateab, reporting on her own experiences during the Syrian civil war, as the wife of one of the few doctors left in Aleppo, giving birth to their daughter Sama. The award for best documentary series went to Thatcher: A Very British Revolution (BBC Two)
Samira Ahmed was named Audio Broadcaster of the Year, for presenting Front Row on BBC Radio 4 and the podcast How I Found My Voice. The award for Radio Programme of the Year went to Hooked: The Unexpected Addicts (BBC Radio 5 Live), presented by Melissa Rice and Jade Wye who provide invaluable insights and observations into the realities of being an addict.
The Podcast of the Year award went to Have You Heard George’s Podcast (BBC Sounds) presented by George The Poet, aka George Mpanga. Julian Clover, chair of the BPG radio jury, said: “The host of our winning podcast talks politics, poetry and lived experiences and is described as a stunning new voice on the podcast scene. The programme on the Grenfell Tower fire was particularly affecting and effective.”
Among the special awards made by the BPG executive committee, Moira Stuart received the Harvey Lee Award for an Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting. As previously announced, the award recognises her five decades of outstanding broadcasting, including news presentation on BBC radio and television, documentaries, entertainment shows and her current news and music programmes on Classic FM.
And actor Ncuti Gatwa won the Breakthrough Award for his performance in Sex Education (Netflix).
I’ve just spent 48 minutes laughing out loud at An Evening with Spike Milligan on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x02qLUMRqN0 ) , when a frail Spike entertained an audience of celebrities (Rolf Harris in the front row! Joanna Lumley looking impossibly gorgeous, Harry Secombe shamelessly upstaged by Spike, an impossibly young and callow Davied Baddiel and Frank Skinner) for Carlton TV in 1996.
Great fun, laughting at the gags, spotting the celebs, prompting memories too of my two encounters with my childhood hero – interviewing him on tour in Cambridge circa 1980 and meeting him again, frankly rather frail and unwell, at the launch of a Granada tribute/profile in 1985. Those were the days…
The photo was taken by my talented colleague at Westminster Press, Eric Roberts, at Granada’s 1985 press launch for the programme.
Do give the programme a look. If you’re a Spike fan, you’ll love it.
Lion rescues Beatle….
A marvellous night at Kettering Lions Club on Friday, performing my ‘Oprah Winfrey Touched My Elbow’ talk, thanks to a lively audience at the town’s Masonic Hall and the hospitality of John and Barbara Geary and all the other Lions members and wives who organised the dinner and created such a special event.
Among those who came up to chat afterwards was one member –David Wagg – who had some lovely anecdotes of his own brushes with fame. In the 60s he was a drummer in a band himself and after gigs would stop for late re-fuelling at the legendary Blue Boar 24-hour motorway cafe on the M1. One night there he and his band-mates heard a call “’Ey whack, could you give us a push?”. They turned to find John Lennon in his Rolls—Royce, who’d run out of petrol just short of the pumps, so they did the necessary grunt work to keep the Roller rolling so he could re-fuel. Chatting to the Beatle it transpired he was “on his way to Abbey Road Studios to record an album. I didn’t think to ask which one…
Then the day job for General Motors, then owners of Vauxhall in the UK, took our drummer to motor city, Detroit, to the company HQ. But Detroit is also home to Tamla Motown and visiting some dimly lit subterranean restaurant a gruff waiter asked David if he liked “the music”. He explained he was in a band himself and loved Motown. “You just missed Stevie”, he growled. Stevie as in Wonder. Cursing their luck, the party carried on with their meal – until the waiter brought up another guy emerging from the gloom, who introduced himself. What a way to meet Smokey Robinson.
Jealous, moi! Absolutely!
In case you’re wondering why on earth there’s a picture of a very large box of Lindt chocolates on this post, I forgot to take any shots of the audience – curses – but I was one of the many winners of a raffle prize, so here’s a pic of that instead. Best I can do…
- Fiona Shaw and Jodie Comer from past winner Killing Eve. BPG pic
I’ve now cast my votes in two rounds of voting for this year’s Broadcasting Press Guild Awards – the poor man’s/woman’s Oscars, because they are run and paid for by journalists, all members of the BPG, along with sponsors Virgin.
It’s the one opportunity I get to mix once again with the best of British TV talent and the awards lunch is an occasion I try to ensure I never miss – there are always more demands for tickets than places, but I always get my request in the moment tickets are available, and so far, so good. I’ve missed very few since I started attending – in 1984! The 46th annual awards will be held on Friday March 13 – hopefully not unlucky for some, or at least not for me.
Meanwhile, I’m indebted to gossip newsletter Popbitch for this lowdown on Oscars voting by a member of the Academy that decides who wins the top award the entertainment industry has to offer. See how you feel about her (very convincing, in my view) arguments for her chosen list of would-be winners – Just click on the link in brackets.
One of the Oscars’ academy members who cast a ballot gives her unvarnished thoughts on the nominations [They’re pretty blunt]