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Spotlight feature: BAFTA's UK Branches

6 October 2023
Event: British Academy Scotland AwardsDate: Sunday 6 November 2016Venue: Blu Radisson Hotel, GlasgowHost: Edith BowmanBAFTA/ Carlo Paloni

Ahead of the Cymru Awards next Sunday and the Scotland Awards in November, we caught up with Rebecca Hardy, BAFTA Cymru’s interim head, and Jude MacLaverty, BAFTA Scotland’s director, to hear how their work supports their local communities, champions the creative industries, and helps safeguard the future of the UK’s culture and heritage. 

The annual BAFTA Cymru Awards, which take place next week, offer a fascinating snapshot of how the academy’s branches toast success in the UK nations. Nominees range from network shows like BBC/HBO fantasy His Dark Materials and Sky sci-fi thriller The Lazarus Project to S4C’s Stori’r laith, in which familiar faces from comedian Elis James to The One Show’s Alex Jones explore what the Welsh language means to them.

As with the BAFTA Scotland Awards, which take place on Sunday 19 November, the common thread is that nominees are representing their country as much as their productions. For these close-knit branches – together, they represent just over 1,000 members – the ceremonies are the culmination of a host of screenings, panels and networking events held throughout the year.

BAFTA Cymru’s interim head Rebecca Hardy says the event reminds everyone that Welsh TV is having a huge impact at home and internationally. “The Awards are as important to the big broadcasters and production companies as they are to freelancers – a chance for everyone to celebrate collectively,” she says. 

It’s prestigious, but there’s definitely a sense of a party 

BAFTA Scotland director Jude MacLaverty, meanwhile, loves to see and celebrate talent’s career trajectory from grassroots activity to awards success. The Awards are characterised by “a real sense of national pride, and homecoming”, she says, with stars like Peter Capaldi, Brian Cox and Ncuti Gatwa greeted as locals-done-good. “It’s like a wedding,” she says. “You’re brought back together to celebrate. It’s prestigious, but there's definitely a sense of a party.”

The branches have been serving members and promoting BAFTA’s charitable aims and objectives for almost four decades now – BAFTA Scotland opened in Glasgow in 1986, with BAFTA Cymru setting up in Cardiff a year later. 

While members get the regular benefits of BAFTA membership, including voting in the national awards and regular screenings of nominated work, both branches are plugged into their creative communities. 

A really good social glue for our local industries

“It is hugely important that BAFTA’s voting members have a voice and a vote from the nations and regions – what one voter enjoyed watching in Shetland may be completely different to their equivalent based in South East England, for example”, says MacLaverty. “But it’s also about community; BAFTA Scotland is a really good social glue for our local industries, a nice neutral space where we can debate and celebrate.”

“Even just going to our regular screenings, members make connections, or get inspired and in-the-know, and can contribute to the next generation of talent either by talking to them and networking or being part of a panel or on our juries.”

Hardy agrees, seeing BAFTA Cymru’s role as “bridging support from new emerging talent right through to people who have been in the industry for years.” 

She adds: “We can only be BAFTA if we are truly representing the whole of the UK. Without Scotland and Wales, we’d be cutting out a certain subsection of Britain as opposed to embracing these nations and it enables BAFTA to recognise a whole plethora of work here.”

Both nations can make a real impact on the ground with the awarding of career development bursaries as part of BAFTA’s UK-wide programme to help junior creatives with the costs of building their skills and experience. Wales allocated £18,500 worth of these bursaries in the past year, and Scotland £20,000, with recipients from camera operators and sound engineers to prop hands and location scouts each receiving up to £2,000 towards training courses, buying kit, or relocation for work.

We're mindful about creating a sustainable industry where the workforce doesn’t have to travel huge distances

MacLaverty emphasises that BAFTA’s ambition to represent the UK in all its diversity is core to the activity of the national branches, which aim to support local production bases and build authentically Scottish and Welsh productions from the ground up.

“We all feed into shaping BAFTA’s policies and advocacy, giving more opportunities for marginalised voices,” she says. “We're also very mindful about creating a sustainable industry where the workforce doesn’t have to travel huge distances to get to work.”

MacLaverty is excited about a Screen Scotland draft pilot running in five local authorities to embed film and screen within the school curriculum. “To me, the thought of our kids being able to study and actually getting a credit or exam in film and screen, learning about teamwork, learning about framing shots, learning about writing, learning that it is a very good career option for young people – that feels progressive.”   

Language is a part of our journey and what we do

For Hardy, showcasing and championing Welsh language work is a role she takes particularly seriously. The BAFTA Cymru Awards are bilingual, and the branch holds events in the native tongue.

“Language is a part of our journey and what we do – the more Welsh language productions we can include, the better,” Hardy says. “We always make sure that we have a healthy mix of English and Welsh language events and programmes to celebrate and support the work that comes from here.

“This has been an exceptional year for Welsh language films and programmes and the Awards help raise their profile, which is vital. BAFTA in Wales wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t bilingual and placed Welsh language work at its heart.”

She wants BAFTA Cymru to continue to tap into the “untold stories” of the culture and history behind this living language. “The Welsh industry has done fantastic work to push it into the international sphere on places like Netflix and Disney+.”

While they have their individual concerns, the branches are similar in their overall goals, and regularly share experience and knowledge. And, as MacLaverty points out, they’re both keen to make their voices heard at the heart of BAFTA, too. 

The branch heads have taken quite different routes to their current role, reflecting the journey of BAFTA’s varied members, but each has been based within their respective nations for their whole career.

Hardy has worked in TV for 24 years as a producer/director and runs Edge21 Studio, the company behind film and TV immersive location app Reel Reality.

MacLaverty, meanwhile, has been director of BAFTA Scotland since 2011, having worked on the Awards as a freelancer since they became an annual event in 2004. A graduate of the Edinburgh College of Art, she says she got her “film education” at The Cameo, an arthouse cinema in the city where “many of the ushers and front-of-house assistants went on to work in film and TV.”

Both have witnessed huge growth of the domestic screen industries in their nation. Screen Scotland figures from 2021 showed a 39% increase employment in the sector in the country, with inward film and HETV-TV investment production spend up by 110%. Channel 4 set up a creative hub in Glasgow, joining BBC Scotland and STV/STV Studios alongside a hugely productive indie sector.

Dundee, meanwhile, has become synonymous with the games industry, along with Rockstar North’s Edinburgh home. “There's been a real drive for us to recruit games members,” says MacLaverty, “and as a result we’ve seen huge growth within that area of our membership, which is really encouraging.”

Welsh screen turnover was up 36% to £575m in 2021 and that success has continued, says Hardy. Together, LucasFilm, Netflix and Cardiff-based Doctor Who producer, Bad Wolf, brought 22 projects into the nation, delivering £155m to the Welsh economy to date, providing huge volumes of work for freelancers.

Hanging over this of course is the US actors’ strike, which is pausing productions and postponing work; at the time of writing, a resolution has yet to be found. 

Industrial action has delayed production of the eighth and final season of Starz’ sci-fi epic, Outlander, which has been a mainstay in Cumbernauld’s Wardpark Studios for a decade and has used filming locations across Scotland. Describing it as a “juggernaut”, MacLaverty points out that the globally successful show is hugely valuable as a training programme for new entrants in the industry and has created a boom in ‘screen tourism’ in Scotland.

We're only going to get a much richer landscape and industry if we give space to every voice in the room

Both branches are continuing their programmes of events to keep members connected. Putting decision-makers, from executive producers to commissioners and broadcasters’ genre heads, in front of members is crucial. Remote working might have scaled back the need for regional producers to take overnight trains to meet broadcasters in London, but there’s still no substitute for face-to-face meetings. The same is true for peer-to-peer chats: MacLaverty talks of making sure everyone feels included at events as crucial, to help avoid “imposter syndrome” and get everyone talking on a first-name basis.

As for the future, she’s focused on growing the branch by extolling the benefits of joining. “Sometimes people think that it's a bit closed off and that, because they maybe don't use [BAFTA’s London HQ] 195 Piccadilly, they don’t have full membership. But we’re continuing to be a driving force for good in the industry – we’re really lucky in that the BAFTA brand does open doors.”

Those doors, agrees Hardy, open to conversation and collaboration – and she encourages BAFTA members from outside Cardiff and Wales to drop in for events if they’re in the area or want to make the trip. 

“We're only going to get a much richer landscape and industry if we give space to every voice in the room,” she says. “BAFTA really is here for everybody, and we have to think about how best to serve our members. Often, we find that people don't realise what they've got with their membership.”

And if you need a reminder, MacLaverty sets out her recruitment mission statement.

“We're not just about the Awards – we have bursaries, training opportunities, and events. I want to make people feel that they are absolutely part of this, and that there is something here for them, in whatever guise that might be, depending on where they are in their career. 

“Our membership fee directly supports the work of the branch, so support your local BAFTA office and we can continue to provide more opportunity!”

Words by Robin Parker.

The BAFTA Cymru Awards take place on Sunday 15 October – stream the ceremony live on BAFTA's YouTube. The nominations for the BAFTA Scotland Awards are announced next Wednesday – follow @BAFTAScotland to find out more.


BAFTA – the British Academy of Film and Television Arts - is a world-leading independent arts charity that brings the very best work in film, games and television to public attention and supports the growth of creative talent in the UK and internationally. Through its Awards ceremonies and year-round programme of learning events and initiatives – which includes workshops, masterclasses, scholarships, lectures and mentoring schemes in the UK, USA and Asia – BAFTA identifies and celebrates excellence, discovers, inspires and nurtures new talent, and enables learning and creative collaboration. For more, visit BAFTA is a registered charity (no. 216726).