AMI Awards 2011 see stars of stage and television celebrated

Winners include Coronation Street’s Cherylee Houston and The Archers actor Ryan Kelly.

Winners include Coronation Street’s Cherylee Houston and The Archers actor Ryan Kelly.

Dame Maggie Smith praised the BBC for their enlightened decision to cast blind actor Ryan Kelly in a fully sighted role Jazzer in the Archers when she presented him with the inaugural Tyzack Award at the AMI awards on Sunday.

The Ability Media International (AMI) awards were held at a glittering ceremony at the London Studios. The packed event was attended by some of the UK Arts industry’s most well-respected figures including Dame Maggie Smith, Simon Callow, Mike Leigh, and Graeae Theatre Company founder Nabil Shaban. The AMIs honour art of outstanding creativity that promotes a more inclusive Arts and broadcasting industry for disabled people.

The evening saw The Archers star Ryan Kelly, win the prestigious Tyzack Award for his ‘groundbreaking’ portrayal of sighted Jazzer; Wayne Sleep presented the Dance award to David Toole, who was born without legs, for his ‘revolutionary’ performances; and Claire Bloom present Graeae Theatre Company founder and disability rights campaigner, Nabil Shaban, with the Fellowship Award. The National Theatre, English National Opera and the Guardian newspaper all won awards for their outstanding contributions to diversity and inclusion in the creative and media industries.

Dame Maggie Smith comments: “It’s easy to find examples of nondisabled actors playing disabled characters. However, through the groundbreaking decision of the Archers’ producers, blind actor Ryan Kelly was given the role of fully sighted Jack ‘Jazzer’ McCreary in the long-running Radio 4 drama serial where his outstanding dramatic range has brought him well-deserved success.”

The Tyzack Award, which is a tribute to distinguished actor Margaret Tyzack CBE, recognises writers, producers and performers who ‘transcend the stereotypical’. The Olivier award-winning RSC, National Theatre and Broadway actress, who died last year after a short illness, was a member of the AMIs creative board and passionate champion of fairness, diversity and inclusion.

Receiving the award Ryan (right) said: “I’m delighted to receive this award for a job which I love doing. It’s the work that counts and the people you work with.”

Simon Callow presented the National Theatre with the Theatre Award for its commitment to diversity whilst demonstrating creative and professional standards of the highest order. National Theatre Chief Operating Officer Lisa Berger who accepted the award said: “I am thrilled and overwhelmed with the award. The National Theatre works hard to be as inclusive as possible.”

The Oily Cart Theatre Company won the children’s award for creating innovative, multi-sensory and interactive productions for young people with profound and multiple learning disabilities. TV Presenter Cerrie Bernell presented the award to the team.

Musical Director Max Reinhardt accepting the AMI said: “It’s a great honour to have our work acknowledged in out 30th birthday year. We communicate with people using sense and movement. Necessity has been the mother of invention with theatre on trampolines, in swimming pools and we have flown an audience in the air like acrobats.”

Coronation Street’s Cherylee Houston has won a top award for her portrayal of Izzy Armstrong. Renowned British character actor, Philip Jackson – Chief Inspector Japp of ITV’s Poirot – presented the award to Cherylee and Phil.

Cherylee (right) commented: “It’s such an honour to be holding this award.

“I realised years ago that TV could make a big social difference to us as disabled people, and now I’m honoured to be playing such a strong, well rounded character as Izzy.”

Producer Phil Collinson commented: “Izzy is in no way defined by her wheelchair; she’s a sister, a daughter and a lover.” He added that things could be hotting up for Izzy in the romance stakes at Christmas.

Jane Jutsum, Leonard Cheshire Disability Innovative Projects Director and Organiser of the AMI awards, comments: “The producers’ decision to include the powerful character of Izzy, portrayed by outstanding young actor and wheelchair user, Cherylee Houston, in Coronation Street is an important and much needed development in the representation of disabled people in TV drama. Cherylee’s storyline is both unpatronising and dramatically effective, and its impact on representations of disability in popular culture could be considerable.”

The AMIs support the Ability Media Centre. Set up by Leonard Cheshire Disability, the centre gives disabled and disadvantaged young people the training and skills they need to meet the demands of the media industries.


Full list of award winners:

  • The Tyzack Award – Ryan Kelly (the Archers’ ‘Jazzer’)


  • The Drama Award – Cherylee Houston & Coronation Street


  • Features Award – Katie – My Beautiful Friends (Katie Piper & Mentorn TV)


  • The Theatre Award – The National Theatre


  • The Music Award – Two Boys (English National Opera)


  • Literature Award – Scapegoat: Why We Are Failing Disabled People by Katharine Quarmby


  • The Visual Arts Award – Re-framing Disability: Portraits from the Royal College of Physicians (Royal College of Physicians and Shape)


  • The Dance Award – David Toole


  • The Film Award – Bro by Chris Dundon


  • The Future Focus Award – William Mager


  • The New Talent Award – Ability Media Production Team (Our Rights to Relationships)


  • The Children’s Award – Oily Cart


  • The Champion Award – Lizzie Emeh


  • The Fellowship Award – Nabil Shaban


  • The People’s Choice Award – The Guardian


  • Live Events Award – Picture this… Film Festival


  • The Interactive Media Award – USCREEN (Screen South)


  • Film & Video Award – BP Olympic Ambassadors


  • The Radio Award – Caring Too Much (Julie Fernandez & BBC R4)


  • Documentary Award – Born to Be Different (Ricochet Films)