Salman Rushdie, Aftersun, Prima Facie, Happy Valley, Musa Motha, Big Boys and many more scoop accolades at The South Bank Sky Arts Awards

Sunday 2 July 2023



The South Bank Sky Arts Awards, hosted today by Melvyn Bragg at The Savoy London, celebrated the incredible achievements of artists, performances and projects from the entire spectrum of the arts.

This year’s recipient of the coveted Outstanding Achievement award is renowned author Salman Rushdie. Over the last fifty years, Rushdie has created an impressive body of work across fiction, non-fiction, and children’s literature, including his most famous and notably provocative novel, ‘The Satanic Verses’ and his most recent, highly acclaimed novel, ‘Victory City’. Since winning the Booker Prize in 1981 for his second novel ‘Midnight’s Children’, Rushdie has gone on to become one of the world’s most recognised and honoured authors.

Sir Salman Rushdie said: “This is a high honour indeed, and I’m delighted to be receiving it in the company of so many extraordinary figures in so many different arts, all being recognized for exceptional work. Artists, of all sorts, make up a community I’m proud to belong to, and it’s good to be celebrating that community together.”

British singer-songwriter and multi-platinum pop vocalist RAYE took home the Pop award for her critically acclaimed debut studio album My 21st Century Blues. The highly anticipated return of Sally Wainwright's Happy Valley (Lookout Point/BBC One) was victorious in the TV Drama category, and Tom Crewe’s debut The New Life, a powerful and honest novel exploring homosexuality in 19th century Britain, scooped the Literature Prize.

Jack Rooke’s popular comedy series Big Boys (Roughcut Television/Channel 4), won for Comedy, and The Royal Ballet’s Light of Passage picked up the accolade for Dance. Aftersun, written and directed by Charlotte Wells, won for Film. The Awards also celebrated emerging talent with The Times Breakthrough award, which was presented this year to inspiring professional dancer, currently with Rambert, Musa Motha.

Further wins include Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s Fly In League With The Night (Tate Britain) in the Visual Art category, and Prima Facie (Harold Pinter Theatre) which won the Theatre award. English National Opera’s The Rhinegold topped the Opera category while the Classical Music accolade went to Gavin Higgins' Concerto Grosso for Brass Band and Orchestra, performed by The Tredegar Band with BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Melvyn Bragg said: “As demonstrated by our winners and performers at this year’s South Bank Sky Arts Awards, British artists are continuing to excel themselves in every genre. The indomitable spirit of the arts in Britain goes from strength to strength - an example for all other industries!”

Director of Sky Arts, Phil Edgar-Jones added: “The winners of this year’s South Bank Sky Arts Awards really do demonstrate the resurgence of the Arts in the UK post pandemic – congratulations to them all. And we are so thrilled that Salman Rushdie has accepted the Outstanding Achievement award that recognises his incredible body of work and exceptional bravery.”

An incredible selection of performances also took place during the ceremony including Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen, singer-songwriter Self Esteem, saxophonist Jess Gillam and rapper, singer-songwriter Enny.

Each year, the winner’s trophy is bespoke and designed by a different artist. This year, the unique award was designed by previous South Bank Sky Arts Awards winner and artist Sir Grayson Perry, inspired by slip cast Staffordshire figures.  

The South Bank Sky Arts Awards continued its legacy – now in its 27th year – as the only awards ceremony in the world to champion the complete spectrum of the Arts, with categories for TV Drama, Classical Music, Theatre, Comedy, Dance, Film, Visual Art, Pop, Literature and Opera.

The South Bank Sky Arts Awards is commissioned by Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts and Entertainment for Zai Bennett, Managing Director of Content for Sky UK and Ireland. The Commissioning Editor for Sky is Benedetta Pinelli. The South Bank Sky Arts Awards is part of a portfolio of South Bank content on Sky Arts produced by Directors Cut Productions.

The South Bank Sky Arts Awards will air on Sky Arts, Freeview and  

streaming-service NOW on Wednesday 5 July, 10pm.  

For further information, please contact PREMIER:


  • CLASSICAL MUSIC: Gavin Higgins' Concerto Grosso for Brass Band and Orchestra – The Tredegar Band with BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC Proms 

  • COMEDY: Big Boys - Roughcut Television/Channel 4 

  • DANCE: Light of Passage – The Royal Ballet 

  • FILM: Aftersun  

  • LITERATURE: The New Life – Tom Crewe 

  • OPERA: The Rhinegold - English National Opera 

  • POP: RAYE – My 21st Century Blues 

  • THEATRE: Prima Facie – Harold Pinter Theatre 

  • TV DRAMA: Happy Valley - Lookout Point/BBC One 

  • VISUAL ART: Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly In League With The Night - Tate Britain 




Sir Grayson Perry said: “From an artist’s perspective award show trophies are often pretty appalling. Blocks of asymmetric Perspex that seem to have been designed by the same person who does the signage on provincial industrial parks. The Sky South Bank Awards needs congratulating for resisting this trend and instead twisting the arms of artists and designers to come up with something a recipient might actually want to display in their posh home. I myself have a very nice Anish Kapoor and a sleek Tom Dixon.

“When Melvyn asked me, I thought well, Melvyn has asked me so I had better do what I want. That is an artist’s job, to do what they want.

“As a traditional ceramicist I looked for inspiration in the history of British pottery. Slip cast Staffordshire figures have been mass produced popular art in this country from the mid eighteenth century. What better reference for an award that recognises talent across all genres of culture not just the ‘finer arts’. So I did Melvyn Bragg as a cat. The most famous Staffordshire figures are dogs but I’m a cat person.”