Dame Judi Dench was on hand at the 2008 TMA Theatre Awards last night (26 October 2008) to present the Special Award for Individual Achievement to impresario Bill Kenwright (pictured with Dench), who, in the last year alone, has toured some 15 productions nationwide. (For the full list of TMA Award winners and nominees - See News, 26 Oct 2008).

In a personal introduction, Dench revealed that Kenwright – a “terrifically loyal friend” who “every now and again, I get to work with … and that’s very good news” – always refers to her by one of two nicknames: “Dameship” or “Tart”. Proving the point in his emotional acceptance speech, Kenwright thanked the “Tart” and said how “extraordinary” and meaningful it was to receive the Individual Achievement accolade at the end of what’s “been a horrible year”, referring to funding problems with a Stephen Frears film project and his football club Everton as well as a wrangle with Equity over salaries on his stage productions.

Kenwright thanked many collaborators over his 40-year career to date, including Tim Rice, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Willy Russell as well as his “family” of staff and business partners. He also spoke of his efforts over the years to “break down the barriers” between commercial and subsidised theatre. In terms of what the current economic downturn means to the industry, Kenwright said: “We know it’s difficult times, but whatever happens, the live theatre, the spoken word, will always be there.”

TO SCROLL THROUGH ALL OF THE TMA AWARDS PHOTOS,
JUST CLICK ON THE \"NEXT >\" LINKS BELOW THE FOLLOWING FRAME.
PHOTOS BY DAN WOOLLER FOR WHATSONSTAGE.COM.

Amongst the other winners collecting awards in person last night were: Brian Conley, Michael Boyd, Lee Hall, Martin Ball, Kate O’Flynn, and Lee Hall. Guest presenters included: Elena Roger, Julian Glover, Isla Blair, Owen Teale, Michael Maloney, Richard Winsor, Summer Strallen and Henry Goodman.

Presented by the Theatrical Management Association, the TMA Awards, unlike most of the UK\'s prizes for theatre, do not focus on London and the West End. They are the only nationwide awards for excellence in regional theatre. In considering the 13 awards categories – the new one, for lighting design, was added this year, supported by the Association of Lighting Designers - more than 1,000 productions were seen by the panel of some 150 regular theatregoers from across the country.

The Theatrical Management Association is a trade association that represents over 300 member organisations involved in the creation, presentation and management of professional theatre, opera and dance in the UK. Its annual awards were established in 1990. The TMA Awards were formerly known as the Barclays Awards, in honour of the high street banking group whose lead sponsorship ended four years ago. A separate set of awards, the TMA Management Awards, highlighting best practice in venue programming, marketing and customer services, were initiated in 2005.

- by Terri Paddock