Kay Mellor is honoured for outstanding contribution to writing, while writers receive awards across 13 categories
Writer, presenter, comedian, actress and producer Sandi Toksvig presented the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain annual Awards at RIBA, in London, on the evening of Monday 19 January 2015.
“Writers are too often the unsung heroes of all forms of entertainment and how great to sing their praises this evening,” she said.
In her welcome speech, Writers’ Guild President Olivia Hetreed highlighted the crucial role of the writer in preserving freedom of speech and said, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings, that “for us the greatest danger to freedom of speech is not the terrible but rare gun-toting fanatic, or the inevitable reaction that to protect our freedom we need more surveillance, more curtailment of our freedom… The real threat is in this room.
“In self-censorship, second-guessing, anxiety not to offend, not to upset… The pen is mightier than the sword but only if we are prepared to wield it with courage and are able to find commissioners, producers, publishers, theatre management brave and tenacious enough to support difficult, daring work.”
She also paid tribute to the success of WGGB in campaigning against proposed cuts to the Welsh-language soap Pobol y Cwm in 2014, and praised the “show of unity by the writers”, who had stood shoulder-to-shoulder and proved that “our Guild, when supported by all, can achieve excellent terms and conditions for its members.”
An Outstanding Contribution to Writing award was presented to screenwriter, producer and actress Kay Mellor, whose many credits include Fat Friends, Jane Eyre, Band of Gold and Girls’ Night. Writer, producer and director Sally Wainwright, who presented the award, paid tribute to her as the “prolific talent behind some of the most powerful, engaging and successful British television dramas of the last 20 years… To be in Kay’s orbit is to be blessed and energised by her absolute passion for drama and her belief that you really can do anything you set your mind to.” (Read Sally Wainwright’s full speech.)
Accepting the award, Kay Mellor said how recognition of writers had improved since she started in the industry. “When I first ventured on to the set I was told to sit in the corner and not talk to the actors… but I think writers have come out of the corner and there is a realisation that we are not people to be frightened of… our passion can be infectious, and cause brilliance.” She also said she believed that British drama “is in a really good place” and that we are “living in a golden age”.
A special tribute was also made to Writers’ Guild member William Ash, who died on 26 April 2014 and who was the inspiration behind Steve McQueen’s character in The Great Escape (1963). Writer, producer, director and fellow Writers’ Guild member Brendan Foley, who co-wrote the bestselling memoir Under the Wire with William Ash, said: “Unlike Steve McQueen, he spent his time in the cooler, not with a baseball and glove, but writing his first novel on scraps of paper while on bread and water punishment.” (Read Brendan Foley’s full speech.)
Presenters of individual awards included writer Caitlin Moran, actress Louise Jameson, comedian Nick Revell and writer-director Sally El Hosaini.
The full list of winners follows:
Best Long Form TV Drama
Winner: Happy Valley by Sally Wainwright
Shortlisted: Line of Duty by Jed Mercurio, Peaky Blinders by Steven Knight
Best Short Form TV Drama
Winner: Marvellous by Peter Bowker (pictured above with presenter Caitlin Moran)
Shortlisted: The Great Train Robbery by Chris Chibnall, Turks & Caicos by David Hare
Best Long Running TV Series
Winner: Holby City, “Self Control” by Rebecca Wojciechowski
Shortlisted: Doctors, “Silver on the Hearth” by Toby Walton, Doctors, “Boiling Point” by Dale Overton
Best TV Situation Comedy
Winner: Him and Her by Stefan Golaszewski
Shortlisted: Up the Women by Jessica Hynes, House of Fools by Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer
Best Children’s TV Episode
Winner: Bing: “Bye Bye” by Denise Cassar & the Bing Writing Team
Shortlisted: Wizards Versus Aliens, “The Thirteenth Floor Part 2” by Phil Ford, Strange Hill High, “MCDXX Men” by Mark Oswin & James Griffiths
Best Radio Drama
Winner: A Night Visitor by Stephanie Jacob
Shortlisted: Magpie by Lee Mattinson, Dangerous Visions, “The Bee Maker” by Anita Sullivan
Best Radio Comedy
Winner: The Brig Society by Marcus Brigstocke with Jeremy Salsby, Toby Davies, Nick Doody, Dan Tetsell & Steve Punt
Shortlisted: Helen Keen’s It is Rocket Science by Helen Keen & Miriam Underhill, John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme by John Finnemore
Best First Novel
Winner: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
Shortlisted: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride, Barbarians by Tim Glencross
Best Writing in a Video Game
Winner: 80 Days by Meg Jayanth
Shortlisted: A Machine for Pigs by Dan Pinchbeck, Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark by Kevin Beimers
Best First Screenplay
Winner: Starred Up by Jonathan Asser
Shortlisted: Pride by Stephen Beresford, The Selfish Giant by Clio Barnard
Winner: Metro Manila by Sean Ellis & Frank E Flowers
Shortlisted: Filth by Jon S Baird, Philomena by Jeff Pope & Steve Coogan
Winner: James I by Rona Munro
Shortlisted: Visitors by Barney Norris, Dr Scroggy’s War by Howard Brenton
Best Play for Young Audiences
Winner: Girls Like That by Evan Placey
Shortlisted: Minotaur by Kevin Dyer, The Boy Who Cried Wolf by Mike Kenny
Outstanding Contribution to Writing
The Awards, which launched in 1961, give professional writers from across Great Britain the opportunity to honour their peers, and celebrate the importance of writing to the creative industries, both nationally and abroad. They also recognise the importance of the Guild’s work in preserving freedom of speech.
High-profile winners have included Danny Boyle, Emma Thompson, Richard Curtis, Jo Brand, Jimmy McGovern, Victoria Wood and James Corden.
A full list of previous winners is available on the IMDb website.
Photos: Guy Cragoe