Novelist Neil Gaiman has been given an Outstanding Contribution Award for his work on the star-studded radio adaptations of his novel Neverwhere and his Terry Pratchett collaboration Good Omens.
He was presented with his prize by Lenny Henry at the BBC Audio Drama Awards in London on Sunday night “in recognition of his strong commitment to the genre” of radio drama.
Gaiman said in his acceptance speech: “I’m absolutely honoured, overwhelmed, thrilled by the award, it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing. I’ve loved radio since I was a small child. You can do amazing things inside someone’s head with radio and radio drama. Geniuses like Douglas Adams have paved the way before us. I’m thrilled I get to turn some of my stories into radio dramas.
“I don’t remember a time that I didn’t care about radio drama. From Under Milk Wood to Unman Wittering and Zigo, from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to Hancock’s Half Hour, radio drama can become part of the fabric of one’s life, exercising the imagination, making the listener into a collaborator with the actors and the writer and the director. It’s faster and more fun and cheaper to make than a feature film, and sometimes a hundred times more effective.”
Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s 1990 novel Good Omens was adapted for Radio 4 by Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy director Dirk Maggs and aired over Christmas.
Maggs was also the man responsible for the acclaimed dramatisation of Gaiman’s novel Neverwhere which starred Benedict Cumberbatch and James McAvoy and aired in 2013.
Also triumphing on the night was Sir Ian McKellen who won the best actor prize for his work on the adaptation of Honore de Balzac’s 1833 novel Eugenie Grandet.
McKellen pipped actors including Sherlock’s Andrew Scott, David Schofield, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Rob Brydon for the prize.
He said: “Radio drama is very special to me as an actor and as an audience because it transports me to my pre-television youth. Wondering if I might ever become a professional actor and listening to the radio, my ambitions were not to go to Hollywood or even to be in a West End play, but to be a member of the BBC Rep Company. Well, I never made that, and this is some compensation.
“I sat with my family, lucky to stay up late in my pyjamas and dressing gown meeting Chekhov for the first time, and Ibsen and Shakespeare, and lesser writers, and discovering the magic of words and sounds through the air, and so it’s with eyes closed that you can discover new worlds and escape.”
Other winners included Mr Selfridge’s Aisling Loftus for Educator, and Stephen Mangan who starred in the play Lunch which won the best scripted comedy drama prize.
Scottish actor and comedian Stanley Baxter was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by BBC head of radio Helen Boaden as he celebrates his 75th year in the medium. Recent and ongoing Radio 4 series include The Stanley Baxter Playhouse and Two-Pipe Problems.
Prize-givers at the ceremony included Olivia Colman, Ruth Jones, Neil Dudgeon, Barbara Flynn and Nina Wadia.
Boaden said: “These awards celebrate the very best of British audio drama and showcase some of the finest actors, writers and producers in the world. I am incredibly proud of the role BBC Radio plays in the genre and am looking forward to another exciting event.”
The full list of winners:
Best Original Audio Drama (Single play)
Everything, Nothing, Harvey Keitel written and produced by Pejk Malinovski, a Falling Tree production for Radio 3
Best Audio Drama (Series or Serial)
Ambiguous Loss, written by Michael Butt, produced by Toby Swift, a BBC Radio Drama London production for Radio 4
Best Audio Drama (Adaptation)
Come to Grief, written and dramatized by Hannah Vincent and produced by Gordon House, a Sweet Talk production for Radio 4
Best Actor in an Audio Drama
Ian McKellen in Eugenie Grandet, produced by Gordon House, a Goldhawk Essential production for Radio 3
Best Actress in an Audio Drama
Aisling Loftus in Educator, produced by Helen Perry, a BBC Radio Drama London production for Radio 3
Best Supporting Actor or Actress in an Audio Drama
Michelle Terry in Educator, produced by Helen Perry, a BBC Radio Drama London production for Radio 3
Best Debut Performance in an Audio Drama
Jade Matthew in A Kidnapping, produced by John Dryden and Nadir Khan, a Goldhawk Essential production for Radio 4
Best Use of Sound in an Audio Drama
The Boy at the Back, sound by Steve Bond, produced by Nicolas Jackson, an Afonica Sound production for Radio 3
Best Scripted Comedy Drama
Lunch, written by Marcy Kahan, produced by Sally Avens, a BBC Radio Drama London production for Radio 4
Best Scripted Comedy with a Studio Audience
John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme, written by John Finnemore, produced by Ed Morrish, a BBC Radio Comedy for Radio 4
Best Online or Non-Broadcast Audio drama
Hood – The Scribe of Sherwood, written by Iain Meadows, produced by Spiteful Puppet Entertainment
Imison Award for Best Script by a New Writer
How to Say Goodbye Properly by E.V.Crowe
Tinniswood Radio Drama Award for Best Radio Drama Script
Goodbye by Morwenna Banks
Listeners will be able to hear some of the winning audio dramas again on BBC Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra, including A Kidnapping, Come to Grief and Eugenie Grandet, starting from Monday February 2