sat 25/05/2024

Your complete guide to which awards have (some) credibility | reviews, news & interviews

Your complete guide to which awards have (some) credibility

Your complete guide to which awards have (some) credibility

Are the Oscars better than the Globes? Is a Brit Award superior to a Grammy? Read this

Pride of place? Grammy, Brit, Bafta, Globe, Oscar, Olivier, Tony

First it's Golden Globes, then Oscars, or it's Grammys, then Brits - you can hardly go by a Sunday this time of year without another set of awards. But which ones count? Who are the judges?

The experts on theartsdesk (judges, some of them - schmoozers, all of them) have come up with a comprehensive diary of the performing arts awards dinners (and glass-of-wine flybys) that you can attend during the year if you know the right people in theatre, film and TV. We also pooled our considerable experience as awards panellists to give you a credit rating for each - if you take the slightest notice of any of it.


January: US Film Critics Awards (US)

  • For: Film
  • Judges: The National Society of Film Critics: 61 professional film critics on major US newspapers.
  • Kudos: The NSFC rarely agree with the Oscars, often giving Best Film to a foreign film. Their awards are considered by many critics a more honest and highbrow critical evaluation. In their view last year The Social Network was superior in almost every category to The King's Speech, except for Geoffrey Rush's supporting performance.
  • Cred: 5/5 over there, respected over here

January: The Golden Globes (US)

  • For: Film and TV
  • Run by: Ostensibly the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but longtime allegations have swirled that it is controlled by the powerful Hollywood PR industry playing on the susceptibility of the HFPA to profile-raising.
  • Judges: 90 members of the HFPA, a predominantly non-English-speaking and international bunch with only four UK members listed.
  • Kudos: The Globes traditionally hope to second-guess the Oscars, with about a 60 per cent agreement rate. But they split film into “drama” and “comedy/musical” categories, which enables double rations of awards. Still, win a Globe, odds are you’re on for the Oscar.
  • Cred: Ricky Gervais's mockery of the "Golden Bribes" in 2011 caused outrage and amusement in equal measure. Lawsuits made scabrous allegations of fraud and bribery between HFPA members and the industry. But only losers pay any attention to that.

Jan-Feb: Critics’ Circle Awards

  • For: UK-wide theatre, film, dance
  • Run by: The Critics’ Circle, a loosely invited grouping formerly of national newspaper critics, now gratefully including bloggers and fans who have the time and urge to run it.
  • Judges: Vary considerably between artforms, depending on their criteria for membership and the structure of the artform: ie how easy it is to get press tickets to see the range of works being judged, and how accessible geographically the events are. Theatre, being London-centred, is predominantly judged by the critics of national newspapers, and the awards have a well-established standing since they began in 1989, but the range of work judged is UK-wide overall.
  • Film awards are mainly labelled “British” (though this has caused disputes with the Irish film industry) and run in conjunction with the British Film Institute, aimed to promote the UK industry. The voting CC members must have gained a professional living from writing about film for a year or more, so the definition is very broad of who can vote.
  • Dance’s diffuse structure and distribution lead to apples-and-pears comparisons between regional UK companies and companies seen only in London, and to which press tickets are scarce. As with the Grammys in the US, there are wide definitions of eligible voters for the "National Dance Awards" each spring, as the number of professional critics shrinks. But so urgent is the wish to have awards that blind eyes are turned.
  • Classical music long refused to do awards, but reconsidered last year, for instrumentalists, singers and composers/conductors, with an emphasis on under-30s talent.
  • Kudos: Useful in theatre, seized upon desperately in dance for PR, virtually ignored in film.
  • Cred: 3/5 for theatre, 2/5 for film and dance.

January: National Television Awards

  • For: TV viewed in the UK
  • Run by: ITV, who initiated it in 1995
  • Judges: A popularity contest chosen by the public. Awards are for “most popular”, rather than “best”.
  • Kudos: Adds to the existing profile of mass popular performers. So Ant & Dec win presenter 10 years in a row, while EastEnders and Coronation Street traditionally battle it out in soap wars.
  • Cred: The only number that counts is 6.5 million viewers this year. On the slide from last year’s 7.9million, and under half the 14.5million rating for 1997.

February: The BAFTAs

  • For: Film, television and video games
  • Run by: The British Academy of Film and Television Arts, a charity supporting the industry
  • Judges: All the 6,500 members of the charity, up to 5,000 in the UK and 1,500 in the US. Founded 1947 with David Lean as chairman, with the mission "to recognise those who had contributed outstanding creative work towards the advancement of British film." Lean donated royalties from Dr Zhivago and Bridge on the River Kwai to the society when  it merged with TV in 1958.
  • Kudos: High, the British Oscars in film terms - though the video games awards scheme has worried film and TV followers.
  • Cred: An invincible 4/5

February: Grammy Awards (US)

  • For: the whole range of music in the US, from popular to classical
  • Run by/judges: Awards established in 1958 by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, to which all producing labels and managements belong.
  • Kudos: Though there are thousands of voting members, there is simply too much music released for a meaningful number to hear and compare, and the labels' nominations dominate. The Grammys are widely described either as the music industry's Oscars or a nakedly commercial mass TV event for the benefit of record labels and promoters rather than creative artists.
  • Cred: Said winner Maynard James Keenan of progressive metal band Tool: "I think the Grammys are nothing more than some gigantic promotional machine for the music industry. They cater to a low intellect and they feed the masses. They don't honor the arts or the artist for what he created." But Bono, initially a strong critic, likes them better nowadays for their highlighting of all kinds of music.

February: Brit Awards

  • For: New music in the UK
  • Run by: The British Recorded Music Industry
  • Judges: Around 1,000 panellists, include artists as well as critics and industry figures. The Classical Brits are run separately in May.
  • Kudos: Big commercial shindig, the UK equivalent to the US Grammys, and fun TV. It gets big stars like Rhianna and Cheryl Cole to the event, and everyone is cheerfully complicitous with its basic function to sell more records via TV.
  • Cred: A dodgy 2.5/5.

February: Awards

  • For: London West End theatre
  • Run by: The website in conjunction with the major West End theatre groups.
  • Judges: "The only theatre awards judged by theatregoers"... "the people who actually pay for their own tickets and for shows they really want to see." They log on to nominate and to vote, and all effort is made to prevent cheating and organised lobbying, but... Sponsored by West End theatre groups as a populist antidote to the more selective Oliviers.
  • Kudos: A good night out, with an up-yours-to-the-critics popular atmosphere.
  • Cred: Last night's winners speak for themselves: David Suchet, Zoe Wanamaker, Legally Blonde, Yes Prime Minister, Wicked, Les Misérables... but the nominations can be intriguing and interesting.

February: The Oscars (US)

  • For: Movies
  • Run by: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, aka the Hollywood movie industry, with vast lobbies at work throwing dollars everywhere to get their films released at the optimum time to be seen by judges and to buy winning media coverage.
  • Judges: The AMPAS voting members number “more than 6,000 motion picture professionals”, the great majority based in the US but including international members. The three actor governors are nominee Annette Bening, past winner Tom Hanks and Henry Winkler.
  • Kudos: The best you can buy. The biggest TV exposure anywhere. Your name or client in front of millions in every corner of the globe. The famous statuette is made of britannia metal, a pewter-like alloy which is then plated in copper, nickel silver and finally, 24-carat gold - the metaphor of gold paint on base metal being a fairly apt one.
  • Cred: 5/5 if you win. (But see our poll for The Worst to Win an Oscar)

March: Royal Television Society Programme Awards

  • For: TV programmes.
  • Run by: The Royal Television Society, set up in 1927.
  • Judges: “The integrity of the judging system is based on the high calibre of the jurors drawn from across the television community to ensure a wide and balanced spread of perspectives…  a system that is internationally recognised as fair and even-handed,” say the RTS. Unglamorous but thorough, separate panels home in on craft, education, student TV, sports and innovation as well.
  • Kudos: Low-profile, with little media exposure, but much prized as recognition by peers.
  • Cred: A closely focused 5/5.

April: Olivier Awards

  • For: London theatre, with glancing mentions for opera and dance
  • Run by: The Society of London Theatre (SOLT), embracing West End and independent theatre
  • Judges: “A mixture of distinguished industry professionals, theatre luminaries and members of the public”, comprising four panels: Theatre, Opera, Dance, Affiliates (smaller, off-West End venues). The Opera, Dance and Affiliates panels have three anonymous members each, plus two members of the public selected by interview. The Theatre panel includes the views of SOLT members in drawing up a shortlist, from which the panellists choose the winners. During the year they watch all the shows: last year 120 theatre productions, 50 dance shows, 25 operas etc.
  • Kudos: Winners get bronze statuettes of Sir Laurence Olivier as Henry V - the very image of authority, with a thorough judging system if rather Masonic air of secrecy. The UK equivalent of the US’s Tony Awards (see June). A new three-year sponsorship deal with MasterCard runs to 2014, and the shindig is at the Royal Opera House this year (the in venue for awards this year).
  • Cred: A magisterial 4/5 for theatre (though weirdly evasive for dance - two designers and a drummer are the three nominees)

May: The Ivors (also known as the Novellos)

  • For: Song-writing
  • Judges: The 2,000+ members of BASCA, the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, who also run the British Composers Awards. Academy Fellows include John Adams, John Barry, Don Black, Pierre Boulez and Johnny Dankworth.
  • Kudos: The prestige award with a classy, music-industry-not-media feel. “The Ivors are proper awards that consider all the work that goes into songwriting”, says past winner La Roux.
  • Cred: A well-tuned 5/5

May: South Bank Show Sky Arts Awards

  • For: Theatre, opera, dance, musicals, TV, classical music, pop, visual arts
  • Run by: Sky Arts
  • Judges: "The only awards show of its kind in the world, featuring the full spectrum of the classical and contemporary arts”, spearheaded by Lord Melvyn Bragg. While the SBS was broadcast on ITV its “off-beat lists”, in Bragg’s words, reflected the content of the show. The range of awards tends to offer an arbitrary pick ’n’ mix of cultural goodies, rather than the more specialised like-with-like judging of other awards.
  • Kudos: MOR Everyman’s guide to good nights out, a must for chatterati who aspire to be dinner-party culture vultures. And a good dinner it has always been. Now that it's moved from packed January to mild May, expect a skimpier class of frock too.
  • Cred: 5/5 if you live in Islington, 1/5 for the rest.

May: Classical Brits

  • For: Classical music (ish)
  • Run by: The British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) - see the Brits in February
  • Judges: The public votes online for the best album, a popularity contest.
  • Kudos: Everyone likes to be popular, particularly classical artists hoping to get more bums on seats for their opera/Lieder performances by making a crossover album that becomes a supermarket hit.
  • Cred: 0/5. But you usually get Katherine Jenkins singing on the night.

June: Tony Awards (US)

  • For: Broadway theatre
  • Judges: New York theatre critics, but with a fair bit of nudging from the heavily commercialised theatre industry, leading to many accusations that it's a stitch-up for large theatre groups. Named after Antoinette Perry, an actress and moving light in the awards' beginnings in 1947.
  • Kudos: The top New York theatre awards, judging many specialist categories and often rewarding British performers on Broadway. The only awards that ensure higher ticket sales. A big feather in the cap of British winners like last year's Douglas Hodge, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Terry Johnson, Michael Grandage and Alan Ayckbourn.
  • Cred: 4/5 (or 2/5, depending who you talk to)

August: Kerrang! Awards

  • For: Rock music
  • Run by: Kerrang! rock music magazine.
  • Judges: Invited critics and industry figures.
  • Kudos: Key to the rock industry, and much loved. And renowned for being one of the best, craziest parties in town
  • Cred: An unpretentious 3.5/5

September: Mercury Music Prize

  • For: A single album released in the UK and Northern Ireland. Theoretically classical albums qualify too, but it’s almost always a new music winner.
  • Judges: A “selected panel of musicians, music executives, journalists and other figures in the music industry in the UK and Ireland” announce the nominated albums announced in July, which generally boosts sales for two months before winner announced in September.
  • Kudos: Tries to be hipper than the Brits, more critically rated, if a bit Dad-down-with-the-kids.
  • Cred: A smooth 3/5

September: Emmy Awards (US)

  • For: US television
  • Run by: The US Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
  • Judges: Members of the above
  • Kudos: The awards for TV from its peers, the equivalent of the Royal Television Society awards in the UK. British programmes often do well, particularly for acting and documentaries.

November: Theatrical Management Association Awards

  • For: Regional stage productions and tours, theatre, opera, dance
  • Run by: The Theatrical Management Association, the trade association for regional theatres
  • Judges: Usually small panels of national newspaper critics who see the majority of touring work around the UK as part of their job.
  • Kudos: Solid and valued recognition for creative theatre and touring work beyond London’s dominant razzmatazz. But very little media attention paid to it, more's the pity.
  • Cred: A quietly prized 4/5

November: Evening Standard Theatre Awards

  • For: London theatre and musical theatre
  • Run by: The Evening Standard since 1955.
  • Judges: A small invited panel of judges generally of high standing in theatreland.
  • Kudos: The awards, founded in 1955, have a regard outranking that of the paper itself due to the Standard’s history as London’s evening paper hand in hand with London theatreland. Winners take home a smart Grecian-style statuette designed by sculptor Frank Dobson.
  • Cred: A media-savvy 4/5

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