The Prestige of International Awards in the Arts and Entertainment Industry

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With today’s announcement of the winner of the Man Booker Prize, by Hilary Mantel for Bring Up The Bodies, the team at Shows in London started thinking about the various awards and recognitions of excellence that are established within the entertainments and arts industry.

The Man Booker Prize is an annual literary award with fairly a specific remit: judging the best full-length novel written by a citizen of the British Commonwealth in the English language. Although it awards the winner £50,000 sterling, the real significance of the prize is the assurance of international recognition and therefore future success. For this reason, many authors also consider it a great honour to be selected for the prize’s shortlist, or even be nominated. Previous winners include Indian author Aravind Adiga for White Tiger (2008), Yann Martel for Life of Pi (2002) and Kazuo Ishiguro for Remains of the Day (1989). Mantel herself also previously won the award in 2009 for Wolf Hall, of which Bring Up the Bodies is the sequel.

Other notable literary awards include the Franz Kafka Prize, the Jerusalem Prize and of course the legendary Nobel Prize in Literature – which is awarded to any international author who “in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction” in the words of Alfred Nobel himself, thereby recognising the author’s whole body of works, rather than any one piece in particular.

Literary prizes are therefore fairly understated, when compared to other familiar awards. In popular culture, the most glittering awards are associated with the film and music industries – such as the Academy Awards and Grammy Awards respectively. These awards often come with big budget bashes, to celebrate the achievements of the winners, nominees and other influential personalities – making a big show out of the event. It’s not uncommon to hear of ‘Oscars Parties’ and the like – inviting your friends around, getting dressed up and watching the awards around the telly. However at the core of these events are the real recognition and prestige that the winner earns in their field. For this reason, there is a lot of passion felt when the ultimate winner is announced. Remember Halle Berry’s tearful ‘thank you’ speech back at the Oscar’s in 2002? And who can forget the shocking moment when Kanye West stormed the stage at the 2009 Video Music Awards, interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Vi
deo, where he proclaimed that superstar Beyonce was more deserving of the prize. These awards remain huge spectacles, garnering interest from weeks ahead and drawing massive television audiences around the world on the night.

Halle Berry's Tearful Acceptance Speech

Halle Berry’s tearful acceptance speech

Here in the UK, our fondest music award is probably the Eurovision Song Contest, although prestige and recognition aren’t the words we’d usually associate with the competition. Previous winners include ABBA, who performed Waterloo in 1974 and enjoyed a hugely successful 10 years as a band. However, most people would struggle to identify any other successful winners, let alone participants. The draw of Eurovision, some would say, are the terribly cheesy lyrics, the overly complicated points system and of course the controversial voting – usually reflecting political ties rather than musical genius.

In Theatreland, we hope that our own awards sit somewhere between all these – recognising true talent but also attracting some fanfare, so as to encourage new audiences to attend. The most famous of these include the Laurence Olivier Awards in the UK and the Tony Awards across the pond in the US.

Named after renowned British actor Lord Olivier, the awards are presented annually by the Society of London Theatre, to West End theatre productions and other shows in London. The Olivier Awards are recognised internationally as the highest honour in British theatre as the theatre industry equivalent of the BAFTAs which are awarded for television and film. This year’s winners included the long-running show Les Miserables in the BBC Radio 2 Olivier Audience Award category, as well as Matilda which picked up no less than five awards in various categories.

The Tonys are the familiar name for the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre, which celebrates achievement in live Broadway theatre. At the 2012 Tonys, big winners included Once, which transfers to London’s West End in March 2013 as well as James Corden with the Best Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role In A Play, for One Man, Two Guvnors, the role which he also played in London’s West End when it debuted.

With such great talent amongst us, it’s no wonder that we’ve got a penchant for recognising those who represent the cream of the crop in each field – or is it just another great excuse to pop open the bubbly?