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The Fellowship – Dame Joan Bakewell DBE

Dame Joan Bakewell received the BAFTA Fellowship at the 2019 Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards on 12 May 2019. The Award recognises her outstanding contribution to television.

The following is an extract from the official 2019 Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards brochure. Our press release announcing the news can be found here.

Joan Bakewell needs very little introduction. A regular on British television and radio for decades, she is a fierce defender of the arts, with an incisive mind and consummate expertise, and a clear-cut role model. At the Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards, held on 12 May 2019, she was presented with BAFTA’s highest accolade, the Fellowship. 

Over a career spanning six decades, Joan Bakewell has offered viewers an erudite and distinctive voice, whether discussing the arts, current affairs or the big ethical issues of the day. Still working at the age of 86, the broadcaster and journalist has long been an inspiration to women in and outside television.

“Being awarded the BAFTA Fellowship is extraordinary because it’s an acknowledgment by the people in the business that I’ve adored all my life,” says Bakewell, who already has a BAFTA – the Richard Dimbleby Award for her work on BBC One ethics show Heart of the Matter. “The idea of joining a fellowship is really something. On the night, I will be in the company of such illustrious talent.”

The Stockport-born Bakewell suffered a few false starts after graduating from Newnham College, Cambridge in 1954. After moving to London, she made her television debut in the early 1960s on Sunday Break, before joining the roster of presenters on BBC Two’s live arts show, Late Night Line-Up. “Television at the time was open for young people – I hit the right moment,” she recalls. “We were making it up as we went along – there were no rules in the 60s.”

Granada’s 1977 series Pandora’s Box was quintessential Bakewell, featuring all-women panels discussing the big issues of the day. “What you get now is Loose Women, which is cheeky and rude. Mine was terribly solemn and serious,” says Bakewell, who is always ready to poke fun at her earnest image.

I’ve seen a huge change – I feel I’ve lived through the greatest social change of the century, which is the liberation of women

Later this year, she will front Sky Arts’ series Landscape Artist of the Year. “I still adore the arts,” she says. “While I’m still on my feet, life’s too good to miss out on.” She also makes BBC Radio 4 shows; most recently, We Need to Talk About Death.

When Bakewell first appeared on television, she was notable for being one of the few women allowed to make serious programmes. She has been a notable trailblazer throughout her career. “I’ve seen a huge change – I feel I’ve lived through the greatest social change of the century, which is the liberation of women,” says Bakewell. “I rejoice to see how many women are thriving in television now.”

Read the full feature in the brochure >

Words by Matthew Bell

Event: Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards (Digital Assets & Campaign)Date: Sunday 12 May 2019Venue: Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, Lambeth, LondonHost: Graham Norton-Area: Digital Assets & CampaignBAFTA