Melvin Bragg, South Bank Show

Long running arts and culture series The South Bank Show is to mark the 20th Anniversary of its gong event. The series, which was launched by London Weekend Television in 1978 for ITV, began its awards show in the 1990s.

Now entitled The South Bank Sky Arts Awards since the programme, fronted by Melvyn Bragg, switched from ITV to Sky Arts in 2012 are the only awards in the world that focus on the arts in their entirety honouring the very best of British culture and achievement. Today marks the announcement of the 2016 nominees whilst simultaneously celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the awards, due to take place on Sunday June 5th 2016.

“The South Bank Sky Arts Awards freeze-frame on a unique moment in British cultural history. It’s when thirty nominees in ten categories across the Arts, from Opera to Pop Music, from Comedy to Theatre, meet to celebrate the best work being done by artists in this country across a wide range of ages and backgrounds.” – Melvyn Bragg

The ceremony remains the highlight of the UK arts calendar and continues to shine a light on a wide range of outstanding achievers from across the arts world. This year’s nominees range from electronica band Years & Years to an embroidery of the Magna Carta to mark its 800th anniversary. Banksy celebrates 25 years of street art with a nomination for Dismaland while the TV adaptation of Wolf Hall consolidates the success of Hilary Mantel’s previous South Bank Sky Arts Awards win for Bring Up The Bodies. Meanwhile new dance productions including Northern Ballet’s 1984 are celebrated alongside the Almeida’s politically charged contemporary production of Aeschylus’ Oresteia in the most varied awards ceremony in the world.

As one of the world’s most coveted arts awards, the South Bank Sky Arts Awards are the only awards to span the full range of cultural output in the ten categories of Dance, Opera, Comedy, TV Drama, Literature, Classical Music, Pop, Film, Visual Art and Theatre, along with The Times Breakthrough Award which recognises up and coming talent and an Outstanding Achievement Award.

“There are world-class performances, the awards of Scholarships to new artists on top of the Awards to the winners judged by an independent panel, all resulting in a 90 minute programme which gives us a rich picture of where we are now in an area of achievement in which at the moment Britain can claim to be in a dominating position. This is the 20th of these annual Awards and a ripple through the records shows an extraordinary tapestry of talent ever-changing but always the same in its high quality.” – Melvyn Bragg

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In a first for the awards, two nominees of The Times Breakthrough Award have also been nominated amongst the best of their art for a South Bank Sky Arts Award in their respective categories. Michaela Coel’s sitcom Chewing Gum is nominated in the Comedy category, and Mark Simpson is up for nomination for The Immortal in the Classical Music category.

Artist Cornelia Parker receives a second nomination, this time for her exhibition Magna Carta at the British Library, up against Banksy’s Dismaland and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s Serpentine Gallery exhibition Verses After Dusk. Other nominations include historical drama Wolf Hall in the TV Drama category alongside Humans and Doctor Foster, and nominated in the Film category are Ex Machina, 45 Years and Brooklyn. In the Theatre category, three hit productions Oresteia, People, Places & Things and Hangmen go head to head while in the Pop category, Benjamin Clementine, Years & Years, and Sleaford Mods are up for nomination.

“We are very proud to be the TV home for The South Bank Show and the South Bank Sky Arts Awards – they are programmes and events that over the years have transcended TV to have a deeper cultural impact, forming a lasting and important record of the Arts over the last 38 years. The Awards themselves bring together probably the most inspiring room full of creative people it’s possible to assemble and, for us, it’s without doubt the most anticipated and exciting event of the Sky Arts year.” – Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts

The awards originated on ITV in 1997 in association with The South Bank Show and Melvyn Bragg has served as editor and host of the awards since their inception. The South Bank Sky Arts Awards have been at the very forefront of the arts in the last two decades, celebrating the best of culture. Twenty years ago, the inaugural awards rewarded the likes of classic sitcom Father Ted, which won the Comedy award, while critically acclaimed performances from David Suchet and Diana Rigg in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? secured a win in the Theatre award. Meanwhile, Matthew Bourne stormed the dance world with his retelling of Swan Lake, scooping the award for Dance.

The South Bank Show and Sky have formed a unique relationship, working together through four ‘pillars’ to support the arts both on and off-screen. The pillars are: The South Bank Show, The South Bank Sky Arts Awards, The South Bank Show Originals and Sky Academy arts scholarships. A unique event in the British awards calendar, this year’s ceremony will be held at London’s Savoy Hotel on Sunday 5th June, and broadcast on Sky Arts on Wednesday 8th June.

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