Dame Judi Dench was today (25 January 2011) presented with an Outstanding Achievement gong at the South Bank Awards, which honour the UK’s creative talent across a wide range of the arts and which have newly relaunched by Sky Arts. Today’s star-studded lunchtime ceremony, held at the Dorchester hotel, will be broadcast at 9pm this evening on Sky Arts 1 HD.

Dench was hounoured for “a career that has kept her at the top of her field for more than 50 years”. She was presented with the award by Sir Peter Hall, who first directed the actress as Titania in his 1962 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream - she returned to the role last year in a new Hall production of the Shakespeare at the Rose, Kingston, garnering a nomination in the Whatsonstage.com Awards for Theatre Event of the Year.

In the Theatre category on the South Bank Awards, the prize went to Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park, which won out over Earthquakes in London at the National and Ruined at the Almeida. Earlier today, the Royal Court production won the Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Play, an accolade it also won at the Evening Standard Awards in November. In the Whatsonstage.com Awards, it has been nominated for Best New Comedy.

This is the 15th year of the South Bank Awards, as always hosted by series host Melvyn Bragg. With ITV’s cancellation of the television arts programme last year, it was feared that the Awards would not go ahead – until Sky Arts stepped in last July.

In addition to theatre, the South Bank Awards cover: classical music, comedy, dance, film, literature, opera, pop music, TV drama and visual arts. One audience-voted category, run in conjunction with The Times newspaper, is the Breakthrough Award, for which one artist is nominated from each art form. This year’s theatre candidate Andrew Scott lost out to indie-pop group Everything Everything, whose debut album “Man Alive” was released in August.