Sunday, 25 March 2018

At last! A BAFTA award!

Ah, finally. A BAFTA award in my hands! For my services to blogdom? For stardom in photography? For just being me?

No, it's someone else's.

Still, it's a most unusual thing, to have the opportunity to hold one of these heavy brass faces - is it brass? - mounted on a wooden cube, with a brass (?) plate on the front of the cube engraved with a name, and what it is in recognition for. It's almost like having the chance to hold an Oscar, but it comes from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. The award is a metal theatrical mask designed in 1955. Did I say heavy? The thing is surprisingly ponderous, and a weak-wristed person would struggle to hold it in one hand. And all the weight is in the mask, the wooden base in no way providing a counter-balancing effect. In short, it's top-heavy. But for all this, very impressive. Perhaps the version they give out nowadays is less substantial and less likely to use up the global supply of whatever metal it's really made of. (Lead, perhaps. Surely not gold?)

This one was a TV Craft Award, given in 1990 to a lady called Joan Stribling, in real life nowadays Joan Stribling de'Launay. I met her yesterday in The Plough Arts Centre in Great Torrington, quite by chance.

It was a dull afternoon, spitting with rain, and I'd been on my way into Barnstaple for a walkabout and perhaps a little shopping, but couldn't get into the place because the traffic was almost gridlocked - some incident which had made the police close off the modern high-level Taw road bridge that carries the busy A361 across the river - and having extricated myself from that, I'd pottered back to Torrington instead. Torrington was hardly buzzing, late on a wet Saturday afternoon. I soon decided that my most interesting option would be to drop into the Arts Centre for a coffee and a bit of cake to go with it (something I'm now allowing myself while on holiday), and while away an hour.

Joan Stribling was there. She had a small exhibition on one of the walls in the Art Centre café, and was having a word with another lady about singing in a choral performance that evening at the parish church. But she had a cold, and couldn't attend, and was about to go home to Ilfracombe.

Coincidentally, another lady sitting next to me was going to sing at the church that evening, and a conversation developed between her and myself, because she had a two-hour gap to fill before the performance began. She hadn't checked the exact time she needed to turn up, and had arrived way too early. This led on to my telling her about how I'd messed up my planned encounter with Ric Hyde the artist at the gallery exhibition upstairs. I'd misread the date of the preview, which had actually been four weeks previously, and not the evening before. In consequence, there had been no need to add two nights to my first caravan holiday of the year, so that I could attend that preview. Silly me!

Our talk then turned to Lucy Worsley's forthcoming talk on 'Jane Austen at Home' two nights ahead, and whether she would give it dressed up in some Regency outfit - she was constantly getting into period kit on TV - and what the prospects were of having a face-to-face talk with her, even if it involved buying her latest book. Joan Stribling, getting her coat on and her bags together, overheard some of this, and asked us both if we were artists or writers ourselves, creatives anyway. We said no, but a conversation ensued. In the course of this, she produced her BAFTA award, like some prop, to explain why she was being featured in the Arts Centre.

I thought it was quite bizarre, carrying such a thing around in a shopping bag! But then I suppose there are no rules about what you should do with a BAFTA award. It struck me as strange that, although she was clearly proud of having it, she hadn't kept it polished up and shiny. The brass (or gilded lead) was a bit dull, and you could only just make out what it said on the metal plaque on the wooden base. Perhaps it had spent most of its life on some shelf at home, gathering dust, and the metal had gradually tarnished. Doubtless most such objects suffer a similar fate. Awards are nice to get, and the fact you got one must greatly enhance your reputation (and likelihood of getting work), but it's the enhanced reputation that matters, not the actual lump of metal presented to you.

I have to say, I was surprised how easily she agreed to hold the thing up for me, so that I could have a shot of it in her hands. Here she is. It was practically shot from the hip, and it's not a flattering picture of her. If you want a better one, there are some on the Internet.

Over the years Joan Stribling has been involved on the vital make-up and prosthetics side with many high-profile film and TV dramas.

Really, it's amazing who you bump into - and what they have in their shopping bags!

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