LEEDS-based Northern Ballet has emerged as one of the big winners at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards.
The company’s adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 won best dance against Paradise Lost by Lost Dog and The Royal Ballet’s Woolf Works, which they described as like “facing Usain Bolt in the 100m”.
Choreographer Jonathan Watkins joked: “This more than makes up for the D in expressive arts I got for GCSE. This absolutely shows if you’re passionate about something just go for it.”
The literature prize was awarded to Sunjeev Sahota for The Year of the Runaways, about the experience of three migrant workers in Sheffield, and which was also shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker prize.
Those in attendance were treated to the world premiere of music from comedian Tim Minchin’s new musical Groundhog Day, based on the 1993 Bill Murray film about a man who lives the same day over and over again.
A month before it opens at The Old Vic theatre in London, Minchin and his live band debuted the show’s finale song to rapturous applause.
Charlotte Rampling danced with joy with Jeremy Irons as 45 Years won the film award.
Rampling, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the relationship drama opposite Sir Tom Courtenay, apologised to Irons, who had joked that he would have been available to play the role of her husband as he presented her with the first trophy of the ceremony.
She called the journey of the film “absolutely exceptional” saying it had been two years in the making and thanked Sir Tom and director Andrew Haigh.
“We shot it as if we were living and breathing this film,” she said, crediting that with its success.
Hangmen, a play by Martin McDonagh about the “second best hangman in England” and which starred Reece Shearsmith, won the theatre award.
Banksy’s Dismaland lost in the visual arts category to Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s Verses After Dark, which explores imaginary figures and the mechanics of painting.
It follows the British artist being shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2013.
Grime artist Stormzy sheepishly apologised for standing up to accept his award before his name had even been called out.
W1A actress Jessica Hynes had teased the winner of The Times Breakthrough Award, explaining he was the first unsigned artist to appear on Later ... With Jools Holland and that he loved his mum, which caused Stormzy to stand up in anticipation.
To laughter from the audience, he said: “I’m mad shy, man, did I stand up too soon? So sorry.
On stage, he continued: “I came here with my brother Flips and we were gonna come in tracksuits and I’m so glad we didn’t.
“I didn’t really understand how prestigious this award was. I’m a bit silly like that.
“This means so much to me to be alongside all these amazing people. I don’t know how I pulled it off, to be honest.”
He beat stars including Chewing Gum actress Michaela Coel, comedian Romesh Ranganathan, model-turned-actress Agyness Deyn and Kinky Boots musical star Matt Henry.
BBC One’s Doctor Foster continued its winning streak by claiming best TV drama.
Suranne Jones, who stars as a GP whose husband she suspects of cheating on her, said it was a special award because it felt like recognition for the whole team.
Holding the serpent-shaped trophy, designed by artist Polly Morgan, aloft, she said: “We’re going to take it and love it and look at it and hopefully produce a Doctor Foster two with as much love and care.”
Benjamin Clementine hinted he had drunk a little too much of the free wine as he picked up the pop music award for his debut album At Least For Now.
Category losers Sleaford Mods got a shout-out while Stormzy was congratulated among the rambling thankyous that included host Lord Bragg multiple times and even the cakes on the tables.
“Thank you Melvyn, thank you so much; judges, thank you; music, thank you; wine, thank you; and arts, thank you very much,” he said.
The Force of Destiny by English National Opera was awarded the opera award for their adaptation of Verdi’s revenge tale transplanted to the Spanish civil war.
Comedian Shappi Khorsandi called on those in the audience to “feel free to do anything to remind the Government the arts are not a luxury” as she spoke about her pride at being British ahead of presenting the comedy award.
American comedian Rob Delaney agreed and said he “felt guilty for not being British” as he accepted the award for his Channel 4 comedy Catastrophe, which he wrote and stars in with Sharon Horgan.
He delivered a love letter to Channel 4, the BBC and the NHS, which he called “the greatest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life” in his two years of living in the UK.
He said: “Between the NHS, Channel 4 and BBC, those are the only things that not make this a grey, rainy Florida and you’ve got to preserve them otherwise you’ll end up like me and that would be terrible.”
Composer Mark Simpson won the classical music award for his Victorian occult oratorio, based on Frederick Myers’ attempts to prove the existence of the afterlife.
The project was funded by Sky Arts and he said he would not have been able to make The Immortal without their help.
Eddie Izzard was hailed as “frankly unstoppable” by Sir Lenny Henry as he presented “the most popular stand-up comedian in the world” with the final award of the ceremony, the outstanding achievement award.
In a tribute video that included Frank Skinner and Peter Gabriel, he was called “a father figure to (Monty) Python” by Michael Palin and a “magic act” by Terry Gilliam.
Izzard looked close to tears as he stood on stage after watching the video, before delivering an impassioned speech to remain in the EU to the assembled guests.
“I’m trying to do things, they talk about negative campaigning in the European Union, I’m trying to live and breathe a positive campaign. Being a transgender guy, doing gigs in German, running marathons, I’m just trying to head forward, surely so human beings, all seven billion of us, have a fair life.”
He continued: “Europe is the first ever continent to try and do this.
“(People say) ‘It’s very difficult, too bureaucratic, difficult’. Yeah, but that’s the direction you’ve got to head, to move forwards as humanity, by heading forward not backwards. That’s why I’m positive about staying in.”
He is performing in Normandy on Monday in German, French and English, to commemorate how far Europe has moved on since the Second World War.
He said: “Surely we have to take the risk, we have to go out there and do things like this. It’s up to us to go out and march ahead.
“So I’m going to fight for every day of my life for all of us to have a fair chance and I know people in this country are having a tough time but surely we head forwards.”