Nominations revealed for The South Bank Sky Arts Awards 2020

Monday 23 November 2020

Having faced one of their toughest years ever, a host of talent from across the arts industry is set to be celebrated next month at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards. Now in its 24th year, the annual ceremony will take place next month at the London Coliseum in a new, socially distanced format. The awards will be free for everyone to watch on Sky Arts, Freeview channel 11, at 8pm on Sunday 20th December.

Hosted by Melvyn Bragg, the South Bank Sky Arts Awards is the only Awards ceremony in the world to acknowledge and celebrate every genre of the Arts, including Dance, Classical Music, Comedy, Film, Literature, Opera, Pop, Theatre, TV Drama and Visual Art.

The TV Drama category proves that it has been another exceptional year for British television drama: Sky Original Chernobyl is nominated alongside Channel 4’s The Virtues and BBC One’s epic Years and Years. Meanwhile in Comedy, BBC Three and Amazon Prime’s critically acclaimed Fleabag goes up against Netflix smash hit Sex Education and Channel 4’s insightful and charming Home. A hotly contested Film category also spans multiple genres, featuring Rocketman, The Souvenir and For Sama.

On stage, Sheffield’s renowned Crucible Theatre boasts two separate nominations in the Theatre category for new plays Standing at the Sky’s Edge, directed by Robert Hastie with music by Richard Hawley, and Life of Pi, directed by Max Webster. They go head to head with The Jamie Lloyd Company’s production of Cyrano de Bergerac at the Playhouse Theatre, directed by Jamie Lloyd and starring James McAvoy in the title role.

Music categories are particularly strong this year, with BRIT award-winning rapper Dave’s album Psychodrama competing with Kano’s Hoodies All Summer and Mercury Prize winner Michael Kiwanuka’s Kiwanuka, in the Pop category.

Meanwhile in Classical Music, Edinburgh International Festival’s performance of Götterdämmerung, from Sir Andrew Davis and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra is nominated alongside the Thomas Adès Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra with the piano soloist Kirill Gerstein. The final nominee in the category is the world premiere of the Thea Musgrave Trumpet Concerto, from the Cheltenham Music Festival and CBSO, based on a series of paintings by Scottish artist Victoria Crowe.

The Opera nominees include Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk from Birmingham Opera Company, directed by Graham Vick and conducted by former Times Breakthrough nominee Alpesh Chauhan, and Katya Kabanova, a story of love and loneliness from The Royal Opera. They are up against the dark and beautiful fairy tale of isolation and enchantment, Iolanta, from Opera Holland Park.

In Dance, Northern Ballet’s tale of passion, tragedy and fierce devotion, Victoria, is nominated alongside Ballet Black’s Ingoma, a fusion of ballet, African dance and song. Matthew Bourne’s contemporary reimagining of Shakespeare’s timeless love story, Romeo and Juliet, is the final nominee.

In Visual Art, Tracey Emin’s A Fortnight of Tears at White Cube is nominated alongside Only Human, the Martin Parr exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, and Steve McQueen’s celebrated Year 3 project in collaboration with Tate Britain, Artangel and A New Direction, which appeared on billboards across London.

The authors nominated in the Literature category are Sara Collins for the thrilling murder mystery The Confessions of Frannie Langton, Edna O’Brien, for her powerful story of survival, Girl, and Laura Cumming for the deeply moving On Chapel Sands: My mother and other missing persons.

Promising artists at the start of their career will be celebrated in The Times Breakthrough Award. A clear marker for stars on the rise, it has been previously awarded to actors Jessie Buckley and Tom Hiddleston, grime and hip hop artist Stormzy and extraordinary cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason. This year, Dafne Keen, star of the BBC’s His Dark Materials, Candice Carty-Williams, author of bestselling novel Queenie and dancer Paris Fitzpatrick are among the young hopefuls competing for the prize.

The final award is the Outstanding Achievement Award, the winner of which will be revealed on the night. This award recognises the remarkable contribution an artist has made to the Arts, throughout their career to date. Previous winners include Harold Pinter, Judi Dench, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Benedict Cumberbatch and last year, Sir Lenny Henry.

Melvyn Bragg commented:

"This year's Awards will inevitably be a very different sort of event for very different circumstances, but nonetheless will be an inspiring and uplifting celebration of the remarkable talent and strength of many artists at the peak of their powers. The diverse and eclectic list of nominees in every category proves that there is much to enjoy in the Arts - even in the toughest of times."

Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts and Entertainment, commented:

“When I look at the list of nominees for the South Bank Sky Arts Awards it’s simultaneously inspiring and heart-breaking. The talent and creativity on display is awesome but at the same time makes our lost 2020 more poignant and reinforces how much we need and miss our brilliant artists, actors, musicians, dancers and all-round entertainers. “

Full List of Nominees

Classical Music
Edinburgh International Festival
Sir Andrew Davis and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Thomas Adès Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
London Philharmonic Orchestra

Thea Musgrave Trumpet Concerto
Cheltenham Music Festival / City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

BBC Three and Amazon Prime Video / Two Brothers Pictures Ltd

Sex Education
Netflix / Eleven Film

Jantaculum / Channel X for Channel 4

Northern Ballet

Ballet Black

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet
A New Adventures Production


The Souvenir

For Sama

The Confessions of Frannie Langton
Sara Collins

Edna O’Brien

On Chapel Sands: My mother and other missing persons
Laura Cumming

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
Birmingham Opera Company

Katya Kabanova
The Royal Opera

Opera Holland Park


Hoodies All Summer

Michael Kiwanuka

Standing at the Sky’s Edge
Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

Life of Pi
Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

Cyrano de Bergerac
Playhouse Theatre

TV Drama
Sister / The Mighty Mint / Word Games / Sky Atlantic / HBO

The Virtues
Warp Films / Big Arty Productions / Channel 4

Years And Years
Red Production Company and HBO for BBC One

Visual Art
Tracey Emin: A Fortnight of Tears
White Cube Bermondsey

Only Human: Martin Parr
National Portrait Gallery

Steve McQueen: Year 3
Tate Britain and billboards across London
A partnership between Tate, Artangel and A New Direction. Supported by Joseph and Abigail Baratta, De Ying Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies, with additional support from Dana and Albert R. Broccoli Charitable Foundation, The Garcia Family Foundation, Wagner Foundation and Tate Americas Foundation.

The Times Breakthrough Award
Classical Music: Jess Gillam
Comedy: London Hughes
Dance: Paris Fitzpatrick
Film: Waad Al-Kateab
Literature: Candice Carty-Williams
Opera: Rowan Pierce
Pop: Beabadoobee
Theatre: Miriam-Teak Lee
TV Drama: Dafne Keen
Visual Art: Michael Armitage

Outstanding Achievement Award

Notes to Editors

For further information please contact Lucy Butterfield at

About Sky Arts

As the UK’s only dedicated Arts channel, Sky Arts exists to bring more art to more people across the UK. By throwing open the doors to make the channel free to air, we want to increase access to and participation in the arts.

Offering something for everyone, whatever their passion, Sky Arts showcases the best of classical and popular music, theatre, opera, dance and the visual arts, as well as original drama and comedy.

About Directors Cut Productions

Directors Cut Productions is an independent television production company based in Central London. Set up in 2010 by Melvyn Bragg and Cathy Haslam, who had worked together for ten years at ITV, the company produces Arts and History documentaries for UK television broadcasters. Directors Cut Productions produce all South Bank Show branded programmes for Sky Arts, as well as producing the annual SBSA Awards.

For more information please visit or on twitter @dcptv_uk

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