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Jane Lush - Chair's Opening Speech, EE British Academy Film Awards in 2018

18 February 2018

The Chair of BAFTA's opening speech to the EE British Academy Film Awards ceremony

Jane Lush, Chair of BAFTA: Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentleman.

Good evening and a very warm welcome to the EE British Academy Film Awards, the BAFTAs, a night in which we celebrate and reward the very talented people whose immense skill has brought an incredible array of stories to life.

I want to say how delighted and honoured we are to have here one of the great filmmakers of our age, and this year's recipient of our BAFTA Fellowship, Sir Ridley Scott. The awards actually go out in just two hours on BBC One, more than enough time for Sir Ridley to edit out any faux-pas committed during the ceremony. In fact, he could probably reshoot last year's awards too. Don't say we didn't warn you.

There's so much to celebrate tonight but it's also important to acknowledge what a difficult year it's been for our industry. Brave revelation has followed brave revelation of bullying and sexual harassment, and which to all our shame, has been hidden in plain sight for decades - we had to respond.

This week, in a cross industry initiative developed by the BFI in partnership with BAFTA and supported by many other organizations, we published principles and guidance aimed at confining to the past the abusive work practices in outdated power structures.

This is a moment in history - it should be a watershed, a catalyst for lasting change. In 2018 we are celebrating a century of women's suffrage and yet as in so many walks of life, there remains a huge gender imbalance within our industry. Which is ridiculous. So let this be the year where Me Too goes hand in hand with We Too - the year that we harness the boundless talents of everyone in this room and beyond for the creative good. We at BAFTA will lead the way.

Last year, we supported 15 female directors through BAFTA Elevate. Tonight I'm delighted to announce the next stage of the scheme. As well as continuing to support these directors for another year, we'll also be seeking out and nurturing writers from under-represented groups to make sure their stories are told too.

We're so proud to see  Florence Pugh, one of three past BAFTA Breakthrough Brits, alongside Josh O'Connor and Francis Lee,  nominated for awards here tonight. It's extremely pleasing that of the 91 talents chosen as Breakthrough Brits over the past five years, more than a third have gone on to being nominated for a BAFTA. And in that vein, I couldn't possibly let this moment pass without mentioning Daniel Kaluuya , nominated for Best Actor and EE Rising Star, seven years after being chosen as a BAFTA Brit to Watch.

Last year we reached millions of people through our events in the UK, USA and Asia and supported over 800 through our learning and new talent schemes. We are currently part way through an ambitious campaign to redevelop our headquarters which will allow us to dramatically expand our activity. We're almost halfway to our target of £25m - and a huge thank you to the many of you here who have been so generous with your support. Our shores are awash with untapped talent - the future of our industry lies in discovering that next generation of performers, story tellers and crafts people from across our creative, diverse land. With your help we can uncover the next Florence Pugh, the next Daniel Kaluuya.

I'd like to express a huge thank you to all the dedicated BAFTA staff who've worked tirelessly to bring this evening together led by the extraordinary  Amanda Berry and Kevin Price and their team including Clare Brown, Emma Baehr and Jim Bradshaw. I'd like to pay tribute to  Pippa Harris, our Deputy Chair and to Marc Samuelson, Alison Thompson and the BAFTA Film Committee who give so much of their time. I want to thank Charlotte Moore, Kate Phillips and Pinki Chambers at the BBC; Katherine Allen and the gang at Whizz Kid Entertainment, the team at Freuds, and EE our amazing sponsors.  A special thanks to their Royal Highnesses, the Duke of Cambridge, our President, and the Duchess for their support in all that we do.

May I wish you all a fabulous evening.