Judi Dench wins at South Bank Sky Arts Awards

Judi Dench has been honoured with an outstanding achievement prize at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards, which also recognised the Channel 4 series This is England ’86 and play Clybourne Park.

Dench, whose career has spanned more than 50 years and last year topped The Stage’s reader poll to vote for the greatest stage actor of all time, was presented with The Dorchester Outstanding Achievement Award by Peter Hall, who first worked with the actress in 1962 on a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Speaking to The Stage, Dench said she was “overwhelmed” to win the award and added: “I was very shaken. I did not realise I would be quite so shaken, but I was.”

Meanwhile, This is England ’86 beat competition from Misfits and Sherlock to win the best TV drama prize, while Clybourne Park, which was written by Bruce Norris and ran at the Royal Court last year, triumphed in the theatre section. It beat competition from Earthquakes in London at the National Theatre and Ruined at the Almeida Theatre.

Royal Court artistic director Dominic Cooke said it felt “wonderful” to win the award.

“We had a fantastic time doing it so it’s a real pleasure to win” he added.

Formerly known as The South Bank Show Awards, the ceremony – held at the Dorchester in London – was thought to have had its last outing in 2010 following ITV’s decision to axe The South Bank Show. However, Sky Arts said in July last year it would be resurrecting the awards with Melvyn Bragg would once again hosting them.

Bragg said: “The phenomenal shortlist and truly inspirational list of winners is further proof, if it were ever needed, that the arts in this country are vibrant and thriving.”

James Hunt, acting director of Sky Arts, described hosting the awards for the first time as “an enormous honour”.

“The list of winners encapsulates Sky Arts’ own aims and commitment to highlighting and celebrating the very best of all the arts has to offer,” he said.

Other winners at this year’s ceremony – which marks the 15th outing of the awards – included the BBC2 series Rev, which beat BBC4′s Getting On and Steve Coogan’s online offering Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge, to win best comedy.

Elsewhere, Akram Khan’s Gnosis, which ran at Sadler’s Wells, won the dance prize, and the Welsh National Opera’s Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg was named best opera.

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The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London. Photo: Noel Foster