Annual Awards 2019
Updated: Jan 3
The second annual virtual ceremony, once again rewarding Excellence, as perceived in the Connected Cultures world, defined by Montgomery C Burns (The Simpsons) as being:
“the quality or condition of being excellent”.
Starting with the Stage, the awards are presented as follows:
Winner: The Convert – written by Danai Gurira, previously best known for her role as Okoye in Black Panther. Starring fellow Marvel heroine Letitia Wright and the equally brilliant Paapa Essiedu. Directed by Ola Ince. A bold and timely choice of production by Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director of the Young Vic, presenting a scathing and ever necessary reminder of Britain’s former colonial presence in Zimbabwe. In this drama, the focus is on religious tyranny and the clashing of cultures, with the inevitable bloodshed and despair. This was a new play that instantly felt like an established classic. One that was somehow charming and amusing as well as devastating and heart-breaking. All staged cleverly within a glass box.
Letitia Wright (Jekesai / Ester), The Convert (photo: Marc Brenner)
Small Island (The National)
King John (The RSC)
The Henry Trilogy (The Globe)
Much Ado About Nothing (Wilton's Musical Hall)
Winner: An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma.
I have to accept I’m in a bit of a minority myself, here, but this was my choice for Man Booker Prize for 2019. So, this is my chance to celebrate a fascinating, modern-day odyssey, drawing on Igbo cosmology, creating quite a flurry of feathers along the way. For me this book is quite a rarity. In a contemporary literary world of digressive prose and experimentation, An Orchestra of Minorities is just so readable. A story that is amusing and disturbing, exciting and reflective, informative and entertaining. I expected and wanted a different ending, but that probably shows the resilience of the affection I had for the characters and the narrator. And, I have to say this…just look at all those chickens!
3. Contemporary Art
Winner: Janet Weight Reed
This category presents so many worthy candidates. It was almost impossible to decide on a single artist. But, for introducing me to watercolours, and for using them to such wondrous effect, the award goes to Janet Weight Reed. I take great delight in her hummingbirds, scenes from a Portuguese courtyard, rain over the Brecon Beacons and semi-abstract portraits. Let’s leave the cats aside! Thank you Janet; through this new medium for me you have enhanced my appreciation of artistic styles and opened up a wider, more exciting range of aesthetic possibilities. Here's to the power of water and its role in creative expression.
Courtyard, Olhao, Portugal by Janet Weight Reed
Humming Bird by Janet Weight Reed
Joe Armstrong, for the second year running, for his captivating Cornish scenes in bold, heavily textured oils.
Tom Cox / Michelle Loa Kum Cheung / KV Duong / Milenna Saraiva for their collaboration on Cultural Diaries, a stirring exhibition at the Old Brompton Gallery at the end of November.
Winner: All is True – directed by Kenneth Branagh
Given the creative forces involved, this film seemed destined to be a glorious success, and yet it came and went fairly quietly at the cinema, and I had to find it on the Sky Movie Store in the end. And still it is true, All is True is a brilliant, thoughtful, disturbing film. The story of the nation’s finest playwright coming to terms with his life and his family, and their respective triumphs and losses. Superbly scripted by Ben Elton, with the maturing rascal Ken Branagh as the Bard, Judi Dench as his long-suffering wife, and Ian McKellen as the unwitting muse, this is a collective force to be reckoned with. Two knights and one dame. The title, by the way, is the alternative to Henry VIII, one of the few Shakespeare plays I am yet to see. And I just can’t wait.
Sir Ken, Dame Judi and All is True friends
Mary Queen of Scots
See the CC review here
End Game – for the death of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr). We won’t see his like again. Click.
Winner: Elementary – starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu.
A sad moment to reflect on. Finally, after seven series, the intrepid Holmes and Watson solved their last case in New York. This left a big hole in my viewing schedule, which is usually quite sparse anyway. Now, I won’t be answering any letters in support of any other actors. Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu were simply the finest actors in their roles. Consulting detectives, maybe. Far from home, one of them was, usually. But they were by far the most engaging. The most exciting. The most troubling. Often at their finest when they were at their lowest, never giving in. The show was at its best when it was least pleasant. The details. The surprises. The ordeals and the resolutions. Going blonde. It was all rather fun.
New York's finest: (L-R) Detective Marcus Bell, Dr. Joan Watson, Sherlock Holmes, Captain Tommy Gregson
Dad’s Army: The Lost Episodes
Superbly created from scripts that had long been missing. For once, nostalgia was what it used to be. Silly, hilarious, and full of pathos. And here, just as ever, we were reminded: they don’t like it up ‘em.
Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle
A briliant set of short monologues performed with passion and commitment, helping to tell a troubling story that will continue to haunt Britain for a long time to come. Sir Lenny Henry at his most subdued, but perhaps at his finest too.
Winners: Manchester City: the Fourmidables
Even by previous standards, an astonishing year for Pep Guardiola and the Blues. City won everything going in English football. An unprecedented domestic treble of the Premiership, FA Cup and League Cup, plus the Community Shield, making an all-conquering quadruple.
City may have struggled a little in the league in the 2019/20 season, but they have been the team of the decade, amassing more titles and points than any other club in that time. A genius of a manager is leading us towards four more trophies this season.
Somerset County Cricket Club – for winning the Royal London One Day Cup at Lord’s and coming so close to the Championship yet again, denied this time only by three days of torrential rain.
Dina Asher Smith
For her magnificent medal-winning performances in the World Championships. And, for yet another sensational dress at the BBC’s Sports Review of the Year ceremony.
Winner: Gary Younge
For his authoritative opinion pieces in The Guardian, setting out the truth for a society that would rather turn a blind eye and just carry on regardless. Especially for denouncing the extremism of Trump, Johnson and co. For dispelling their nonsense and exposing their lies. For calling instead for human decency, truth, justice and equality. For challenging all of us to be better and to make this world a fairer place for everyone.
No runners up.
Last year’s winner Robert Peston came a cropper this year, ceasing to be reliable in his predictions on how MPs would behave. But then, who could blame him? The House of Commons went weird and we all ended up scratching our heads. How could it have come to this?
8. Political / Social Leadership
Winner: Jacinda Ahern
New Zealand, a tiny nation, so often leads the way in world affairs. And they have the kind of leader that so many of us in the rest of the world can only dream of. Jacinda Ahern is honoured here for her humanity as well as her firmness. For successfully bringing in gun control laws. Yes, America, it is possible! For wearing a hijab when she consoled grieving Muslims who had lost loved ones in a terrorist attack by a white supremacist. For being such a fine leader and source of inspiration on so many issues. We can only wonder if we will ever have any kind of leader in Britain again, let alone such a superb one.
Compassion and strength: Jacinda Ahern
For his ongoing promotion of HIV awareness, and for taking on the media when they went too far. Meghan, Harry and baby deserve privacy and time to enjoy being a family.
For being herself. For leaving herself off the cover of the September edition of Vogue magazine, putting a mirror panel there instead of her picture so that we could all see ourselves instead. For bringing vibrancy and new life to the Royal Family. For being strong and rising above so much hatred flung at her.
The Queen has also had a hard time this year. She has been obliged to listen to and to speak the words of corrupt politicians. I feel she deserves so much more, but I hereby offer a small tribute to Her Majesty for 2019, for deliberately not wearing her crown at one of those pointless openings of parliament.
9. Social Justice
Winner: Raheem Sterling
Raheem has played a big part on and off the pitch in recent years. The goals are coming in abundance now, but more important has been the striker’s stand against racism. Raheem has defied the haters and smiled in the face of adversity. He has set a shining example to those around him and everyone else watching from afar, living up to the role model status the media eventually had to accord him. Raheem made a nice gesture at FA Cup semi-final time when he paid for tickets and transport to Wembley for every pupil at his former school in Brent. We have a national treasure here.
Raheem Sterling and friends
Gina Miller came close, mounting a titanic legal challenge to those seeking to deprive us of our EU membership. Sadly, our continent is all but gone. But thanks for trying Gina.
Steve Bray has also made a massive effort over the last few years, standing outside the palace of Westminster every day, through rain and shine, draped in an EU flag, wearing an EU hat, and using his megaphone with gusto. Thanks for being there Steve. But again, sadly, the country has failed to respond.
10. The Special Award for Cultural Connectivity
Winner: Tamara Rojo
The award this year goes to a creative wonder who has made a massive contribution to English artistic culture. She is also a shining example of cultural connectivity within Europe. And so, once again, we are celebrating an exceptional leader from overseas.
The English National Ballet continues to reach ever greater heights, thanks to Tamara's vision and dynamism. The Spanish superstar dances less these days, but when she steps onto the stage she is exquisite. A dancer who brings perfection to every performance and a true joy to behold. Tamara has recently led the English National Ballet to its splendid new home on London City Island, and is currently preparing for the ENB's 70th Anniversary Gala performances at The Coliseum on 17th and 18th January.
I was fortunate to meet Tamara at the Instituto Cervantes in London in November. For the main event, she was interviewed in Spanish, so I struggled to keep up, but still found myself rapt in attention. I then enjoyed talking to Tamara in English afterwards. For once, I have to admit to being just a little star struck. I think she was too :)
Congratulations to all the award winners and runners up. It's been a wonderful year.
© Eddie Hewitt 2019
See the Connected Cultures Annual Awards 2018