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Pippa Harris, Chair- Opening Speech, EE British Academy Film Awards in 2020

2 February 2020

PIPPA HARRIS: Good evening your Royal Highnesses, ladies and gentlemen.

I am delighted to welcome you to the EE British Academy Film Awards, celebrating the wonderful array of films which have thrilled and moved audiences over the past year. I congratulate every nominee on their incredible achievements.

Over the years I have been offered many pieces of advice as to what makes a great Awards ceremony, but the one thing I have never heard anybody say is, 

"That was a terrific evening, but why oh why didn’t the BAFTA Chair speak for longer". So I shall be keeping my remarks brief!

However, I don’t feel I can begin without addressing the recent criticism there has been about the lack of diversity in some of tonight’s categories.

It is deeply concerning, and we at BAFTA haven’t held back in expressing our disappointment, and immediately announcing a wide-ranging review of the whole Awards process.

Following the announcement of the review, we have been inundated with offers to be part of it - people realise this is an industry-wide issue and that we must all work together to make real progress.

Film has a responsibility to reflect the society in which we live, and each and every one of us has a role to play to ensure meaningful change.

But, it’s also disappointing that some of the voices of complaint have drowned out the many positive strides which tonight’s BAFTA nominations represent.

Just as an example, the fact that 13 women directors have been nominated across a number of categories is a cause for celebration.

Their work in documentaries, Foreign language films, feature animation, short films and as debut directors might not have put them in the main fiction category, but make no mistake, these women represent the future of our industry.

It is also the case that two of those with the most individual nominations this year, are Bong Joon Ho, director of the extraordinary "Parasite",and Waad al Kateab, who co-directed and produced the stunning documentary "For Sama” - And neither of them is a white middle-aged man - I personally checked that!

What has also been lost in the debate is that BAFTA has, for many years, worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure diversity is an absolute priority within our numerous talent programmes. 

These include scholarships, mentoring, and masterclasses, aimed at young people and career starters. 

BAFTA schemes such as Elevate and Breakthrough, which support those already in our industry, are helping to break down barriers and nurture a truly diverse workforce.

Also, this year all the productions nominated for the exclusively British categories had to pass the BFI Diversity Standards in order to be eligible.

Exciting, new, original voices are coming through all these BAFTA initiatives, and you will see some of them here with us tonight, celebrating their very first nominations.

Next year, BAFTA will re-open its headquarters at 195 Piccadilly, creating an international centre of excellence. 

This will be the engine that drives BAFTA’s charitable work and will enable us to dramatically increase the year-round activity we do to support the next generation of talent.

My sincere thanks to everyone who has so generously donated to our fundraising campaign - you will be pleased to hear that thanks to you we have very nearly reached our target.

Our other key priority at BAFTA is sustainability, and I am proud to say that tonight’s event will be carbon-neutral.  We have achieved this by taking a robust look at all that we do, from our red carpet, to transport, lighting, and indeed tonight’s dinner, which has been created using entirely sustainably sourced produce.

I also took a particularly robust look at myself, and opted to "Dare to Re-wear".  Which is not, as some have suggested, because I am a cheapskate and didn’t want to splash out on a new dress!

I want to say a huge thank you to the dedicated BAFTA staff who have worked to bring this evening together, led by Amanda Berry and Kevin Price, and their team including Clare Brown, Emma Baehr and Deirdre Hopkins.

I'd like to pay tribute to Krishnendu Majumdar, our Deputy Chair, and to Marc Samuelson, Anna Higgs and the BAFTA Film Committee.

Thank you to the people we simply couldn’t do this evening without - the BBC; the team at Whizz Kid Entertainment, and the team at Freuds. And to EE our truly amazing sponsors.

They have been our partner for a remarkable 23 years and this year we celebrate the 15th year of the EE Rising Star Award. 

Finally a special thanks to Your Royal Highnesses, the Duke of Cambridge, our President, and the Duchess, for your support in all that we do. 

The Duke has been our President now for ten years, and his encouragement and steadfast commitment has allowed BAFTA to grow and flourish over those years.

Thank you and I hope you all have a wonderful evening