The South Bank Sky Arts Awards 2021

Monday 7 June 2021

First in-person awards at The Savoy, celebrating 25 years as the only awards to cover the full spectrum of the arts

Nominees include: Dua Lipa, J Hus, Maggie O’farrell, Kiln Theatre’s Pass Over, Paul Mendez’s Rainbow Milk, I May Destroy You, Cold War Steve Meets The Outside World

Awards Date: Monday 19 July 2021

The South Bank Sky Arts Awards returns on 18 July in style for 2021, marking 25 years as the only Awards ceremony in the world to celebrate every genre of the Arts, including Dance, Theatre, Pop, TV Drama, Film, Classical Music, Literature, Opera, Comedy and Visual Art.

Making a spectacular return for this anniversary year, the Awards will be the first in-person event to take place at The Savoy since government restrictions have eased. The ceremony will take place on Monday 19 July at The Savoy and will air on Thursday 22 July at 9pm on Sky Arts, the UK’s only free-to-air TV channel dedicated to arts, music and culture.

Presented and edited by Melvyn Bragg, the cream of British talent form a dazzling and diverse list of nominees for this year, with high calibre talent battling it out in a particularly strong Pop category, which includes nominations for Dua Lipa, J Hus and SAULT. The TV Drama category this year sees nominations for three outstanding series; RTS-winning, BAFTA-nominated BBC drama I May Destroy You, BAFTA-nominated anthology series Small Axe and BBC Two drama Industry.

Melvyn Bragg said: "This is the 25th anniversary of the Awards and, with luck, we are back to a huge gathering of some of the finest artists across the board in the United Kingdom. This is an Awards show which also includes performances of the highest quality – and is altogether a positive and happy statement of the Arts in Britain today."

Phillip Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts, Sky, said: “After a year like no other where performers and artists across all the genres have found new and innovative ways of working it’s with a real sense of excitement and pride that we welcome them back to celebrate all their amazing achievements in 2020. And in this its 25th year the South Bank Sky Awards promises to be even more special.”

This year there are two additional awards – The Sky Arts Award for Innovation in the Arts During The Pandemic, awarded to both an institution and an individual, to acknowledge their outstanding work during the Covid-19 global pandemic. Winners of this category will be announced on the night.

Leading the way in the Comedy category with two nominations is Channel 4 with quirky sitcom Home and semi-autobiographical series Feel Good, alongside the BBC’s hilarious sitcom from the Horrible Histories team, Ghosts. Nominations for Theatre include the Kiln Theatre’s Pass Over, the Donmar Warehouse’s Blindness and the Harold Pinter Theatre and BBC Four collaboration, Uncle Vanya.

Fighting it out in the hotly contested Film category is Sarah Gavron’s coming of age drama Rocks, alongside Rose Glass’ chilling debut film Saint Maud and Remi Weekes’ horror thriller His House. Opera North and Scottish Opera battle it out in the Opera category with Street Scene and Nixon In China respectively, with VOPERA also being nominated for L’enfant et les sortilèges.

Literature category nominations this year include Douglas Stuart’s Booker Prize-winning and New York Times Bestseller, Shuggie Bain, alongside Maggie O’Farrell’s winner of The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 novel, Hamnetand Paul Mendez’s semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age novel, Rainbow Milk. Rounding out the Visual Art category are Denzil Forrester: Itchin & Scratchin from Nottingham Contemporary & Spike Island, Bristol, Hold Still from the National Portrait Gallery and unique, ground-breaking exhibition Cold War Steve Meets the Outside World.

Leaping into the Dance category, nominations include The Royal Ballet’s first main-stage work of Valentino Zucchetti's Scherzo, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s first one-act ballet commissioned and presented by Carlos Acosta, Lazuli Sky,and Final Edition, the farewell performance from the Richard Alston Dance Company. Classical Music nominations include Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s Petrenko's Mahler I & II, The Lockdown Commissions Lawrence Power and Pavel Kolesnikov’s and Samson Tsoy’s Second Ragged Music Festival at the Ragged School Museum.

The Times Breakthrough Award shines a spotlight on up-and-coming talent in the British Arts; previous notable winners include Amma Asante, Billie Piper and Nubya Garcia. Nominations for this popular category will be announced in due course.

The pinnacle of the event is the Outstanding Achievement Award, which acknowledges the remarkable contribution an artist has made throughout their career to date. Previous winners of this award include Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sylvie Guillem, Tracey Emin, Judi Dench, J.K. Rowling, Howard Pinter, Simon Rattle, Eddie Izzard, and Benedict Cumberbatch. This year’s winner will be revealed during the ceremony.

Despite the restrictions of the pandemic, The South Bank Sky Arts Awards was still able to go ahead in December 2020, putting on a virtual ceremony that provided its deserving winners with an event no less celebratory than in previous years. Winners for 2020 included Sir Ian McKellen for Outstanding Achievement Award, and The Times Breakthrough Award was awarded to Waad al-Kateab, the Syrian journalist, filmmaker and activist whose critically-acclaimed documentary For Sama won two BAFTAs and an Academy Award. Other winners included Fleabag for Comedy, Chernobyl for TV Drama and music artist Dave.


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Denzil Forrester: Itchin & Scratchin - Nottingham Contemporary & Spike Island, Bristol

Hold Still - National Portrait Gallery

Cold War Steve Meets The Outside World - Medway / Bournemouth / Liverpool / Coventry


Shuggie Bain - Douglas Stuart

Hamnet - Maggie O’Farrell

Rainbow Milk - Paul Mendez


Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia

J Hus - Big Conspiracy

SAULT – Untitled (Black Is)


Pass Over - Kiln Theatre

Uncle Vanya (2020 Film) - Harold Pinter Theatre / BBC Four

Blindness - Donmar Warehouse


I May Destroy You - BBC One / HBO

Small Axe - BBC One

Industry – Bad Wolf/ BBC / HBO


Petrenko's Mahler I & II - Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Lawrence Power - The Lockdown Commissions

Second Ragged Music Festival - Ragged School Museum


Home, Series 2 - Jantaculum / Channel X / Channel 4

Feel Good - Objective Fiction & Objective Media Group Scotland / Channel 4 / Netflix

Ghosts, Series 2 - Monumental Television / BBC One


Scherzo - The Royal Ballet

Lazuli Sky - Birmingham Royal Ballet

Final Edition - Richard Alston Dance Company



Saint Maud

His House


Street Scene - Opera North

Nixon in China - Scottish Opera

L’enfant et les sortilèges - VOPERA


To be announced


To be announced


To be announced


To be announced

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About Sky Arts 

Sky Arts exists to bring more art to more people across the UK. In 2020, with the creative industries under serious threat, we threw open our doors to make the channel free for everyone to watch. We’ve redoubled our mission to increase access to the arts and we’re committed to getting everyone involved as the industry recovers. The fact is, we need the arts now like never before, and Sky Arts brings them straight to your living room.   

We have something for everyone, championing creative talent by showcasing the best in music, theatre, dance, literature, opera and visual art. From Glyndebourne to Grime and Cézanne to The Style Council, we’ve got your passions covered. Millions of viewers tune in to hit returning series such as Portrait Artist of the Year, Urban Myths and British cultural institution The South Bank Show, but our acclaimed new programmes might take you anywhere from Pinter’s house with Danny Dyer to a Scottish road trip with Samuel Johnson.    

Collaboration is at the heart of what we do. Sky Arts is the headline sponsor of National Theatre Live in the UK and we work with cultural partners across the country including the English National Opera, Royal Academy of Arts, Tate, Creative Industries Federation and Coventry City of Culture to name but a few.   

You can watch Sky Arts for free on Freeview channel 11 and Freesat channel 147.  If you’ve got Sky or a Now TV entertainment pass, you can also watch over 2,000 hours of shows exclusively on demand.    

We’re passionate about supporting the next generation of artists, so we’re working with five leading Sky Arts Ambassadors - Booker Prize-winner Bernardine Evaristo, dance artist Akram Khan, conductor Charles Hazlewood, Theatre Royal Stratford East Artistic Director Nadia Fall, and sculptor Anish Kapoor – to run bursary schemes for new and emerging talent.  

About The South Bank Sky Arts Awards

The South Bank Sky Arts Awards are the only Awards ceremony in the world to represent the entire spectrum of the British Arts. Previous winners across the various categories include Doctor Foster for TV Drama, Skyfall for Film, and Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies for Literature. Previous winners of the Outstanding Achievement Award include Harold Pinter, Judi Dench, J.K. Rowling, Eddie Izzard and last year Ian McKellen.

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 10 years at ITV, the company produces Arts and History Documentaries for UK television broadcasters. Directors Cut Productions produce all South Bank Showbranded programmes for Sky Arts as well as producing The South Bank Sky Arts Awards.