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Kimberly Nixon and Vicky McClure

As the 26th annual BAFTA Cymru awards that took place in St David’s Hall in Cardiff on Sunday 8th October, programmes commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster dominated proceedings, taking home the majority of the awards.

The rising Welsh singer Betsy – from a goose farm in Pembrokeshire – opened the ceremony, performing her huge hit Lost and Found in front of a screen as clips of nominees play. The glamorous singer said she found opening the awards (as well as presenting later in the ceremony) “terrifying but amazing”. Betsy wasn’t the only member of her family entertaining, as her mother impressed the after-party crowd by dancing to the swing band with H from Steps.

As well as Betsy, Welsh musicals star Lucie Jones performed a medley of Shirley Bassey hits in honour of Dame Shirley’s 80th birthday this year.



After Betsy, Huw Stephens was the ceremony’s host again for a third time. In his opening speech he referred the return of the Games category at the BAFTAs and Aberfan – acknowledging that three survivors of the disaster were in attendance in the audience.

Programmes about the disaster took most of the awards with Aberfan: The Green Hollow winning three awards, for Television Drama, Breakthrough Award (going to Jenna Robbins) and Writing (Owen Sheers). In his speech, Sheers thanked the people of Aberfan for their “honesty, bravery and generosity”.

On the factual side, The Aberfan Young Wives Club and Aberfan – The Fight for Justice won two awards each. During the nominees for Photography: Factual, Stephen Hart got a big reaction from the audience, for Aberfan – The Fight for Justice: the award eventually went to Baz Irvine for The Aberfan Young Wives Club, whose director Marc Evans also won for Director: Factual. Aberfan – The Fight for Justice won for Single Documentary, with Huw Edwards winning for presenter. When accepting the Single Documentary award, producer and director Iwan England – who was born and raised in Aberfan a decade after the disaster – said it was the only documentary where he felt he had to ask his parents’ permission to make.

The lead acting awards both went to first time nominees; Kimberly Nixon, for her role in Ordinary Lies, emotionally thanked her husband and her father; Jack Parry Jones proved a popular winner for his role in Moon Dogs. In his endearingly unprepared ‘speech’ the young actor admitted to “shitting myself” and was “chuffed” to be picking up the award.

After being separate in past years, 2017 BAFTA Cymru sees the Games Award return to the main ceremony. Presented by Denise Black and Richard Mylan – who are both about to star in Sherman Theatre’s production of The Cherry Orchard – the award went to Bridgend-based games developers Dojo Arcade for their game Creature Battle Lab.

Dojo Arcade’s Phillip Page says they were in disbelief to be picking up an award on their company’s first red carpet outing:

“We were up against some incredible games so I don’t think any of us were expecting to win. When they announced Creature Battle Lab as the winning game my sense of time and reality came to a stop. I had to do a speech which I kept short and to the point – always leave them wanting more, as the saying goes, but in my case it was more that I hadn’t prepared anything and was still dumbfounded by the win. After the announcement it was all a bit of a whistle stop tour behind the scenes. We were whisked off to have photos taken and to do interviews.”

With Games returning to the main ceremony the win is “even more of an honour” for the Dojo guys, “as games are finally being recognised as a legitimate media alongside film and TV, which in my eyes it has been ever since I picked up my first controller many years ago. The fact we’ll always be the first game to be included in the main awards ceremony is a great honour and we’re very proud to have our names up there with all the other past and future winners.”

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John Rhys-Davies

The two special award honours this year went to screenwriter Abi Morgan, receiving the Siân Philips Award (this year sponsored by Pinewood), with acclaimed movie actor John Rhys-Davies presented with an award for Outstanding Contribution to Film and Television. Before picking up her award, Morgan was congratulated via video clips from Stellan Skarsgård, Steve McQueen and Ralph Fiennes. Rhys-Davies’s career was represented by clips that included Murder, She Wrote and Spongebob Squarepants alongside his more well-known appearances in Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings films.

Both Morgan and Rhys-Davies championed the future of filmmaking, with Morgan promoting the positive future in female screenwriting. John Rhys-Davies used his speech to encourage young filmmakers to always remain gracious; saying that Wales “has talent, imagination and hwyl” and there’s no reason why our film industry can’t do for Wales what the Lord of the Rings films did for New Zealand!

words Chris Williams

photography BAFTA Cymru Shutterstock

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Abi Morgan and Peter Capaldi

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