How did the Also Recognised Awards come about?

Mark Shenton and Terri Paddock. Photo by Peter Jones

Mark Shenton and Terri Paddock. Photo by Peter Jones

When Terri left WhatsOnStage.com, now under US ownership, she vowed to never run another theatre awards. She established the WhatsOnStage Awards – which she’ll forever consider the “Wossies”, as dubbed by three-time co-host James Corden – in 2001, with the close involvement of Mark, who was then her chief critic at WhatsOnStage.

Terri, who also co-founded and, for 16+ years, ran WhatsOnStage.com business before her departure in December 2013, explains: “I first read about WhatsOnStage dropping these categories on Mark’s blog for The Stage, and was alarmed and saddened by the new owner’s decision. Mark and I agree that the work these categories represent remains vitally important and deserves to be celebrated. We felt we had to take action.”

Mark continues: “While we were at it, we also wanted to give recognition to other important disciplines that aren’t covered by conventional theatre awards, not least Musical Direction, without which no musical could exist.”

Why include a special award for Musical Direction?
Andrew Keates

Andrew Keates

We have watched and admired, and previously commented on, the campaign waged by musical director Mike Dixon and director Andrew Keates to have the vital role of musical direction recognised by other awards bodies on a par with the work of directors, set, lighting and sound designers.

So when we thought about starting a new awards for “also recognised” categories, it was a no-brainer that we should include this one. Andrew and Mike loved the idea too, and have helped us draw up the shortlists for both Musical Direction and, another related area, Best Original Music.

Andrew Keates says: “I’m so pleased to be signed up and associated with such soldiers of theatre, to seek out and recognise those that have been ignored in our industry for too long.”

“These awards herald a New Age, a New Voice and perhaps are a New Overture to finally achieving Creative Team Parity.”

Mike Dixon

Mike Dixon

Mike Dixon adds: “These awards herald a New Age, a New Voice and perhaps are a New Overture to finally achieving Creative Team Parity.”

To properly recognise Musical Direction, we also want to make sure that voters know what they’re being asked to judge. So, as part of our awards ‘season’, we’ll be including a series of articles giving insight into the role that musical direction plays in shows large and small.

The vital – and changing – ways of promoting theatre

Finally, in the inaugural awards, we were keen to shine the spotlight on the creativity and increasing sophistication of digital marketing and advertising in theatre. As we’re immersed in media ourselves, we fully appreciate how important this work is to engaging with new audiences and keeping theatre vital. Our three other categories – for show posters, show trailers and Twitter engagement – celebrate this.

What are we missing?

The categories for the inaugural Also Recognised Awards are not fixed. In our second year in 2016 – by which time the Mates collective had grown to more than 20 regular bloggers, in addition to Mark and Terri – we added an 11th category for Best Musical Cabaret, based on Mates demand.

We remain open to suggestions for new categories for future years’ voting. If you have an idea, can tell us why it should be recognised and how it should be shortlisted and decided by a popular vote, drop us a line via the contact page and let’s have a natter. All recommendations are warmly welcomed and considered. And, we promise, those with sufficient audience merit and industry backing will be introduced in future years.

Recognition not expensive ceremonies and doorstops

Most awards cost A LOT of money and create A LOT of hassle. We have founded these awards simply because we passionately believe in the work they celebrate and want to recognise the artists behind the work.

Sadly – or happily, depending on how you look at it (and after 13 years of raising sponsorship for the WhatsOnStage Awards, Terri veers strongly towards ‘happily’) – we don’t have pots of cash, nor armies of volunteers. We also don’t enjoy putting anyone’s nose out of joint by accidentally missing them off an invite list and we definitely definitely don’t enjoy endlessly pestering agents, PAs and publicists.

All of which is to say, this is an online vote only, purely for the satisfaction that shortlisting and voting bestows on those recognised. We try our best to inform winners, share their appreciation with the voters and make a great big fuss of them online.

But there are no physical gongs, no postage, courier or catering costs, no launch parties or red-carpet ceremonies. There’s no ‘real world’ event of any kind… Unless, that is, anyone fancies meeting in the pub for a celebratory pint or two just for the helluva it. If so, you know where we are.