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Noel Clarke: BAFTA defends decision to present actor with outstanding contribution to British cinema award

Written by on 5 May 2021

BAFTA has defended its decision to present Noel Clarke with its outstanding British contribution to cinema award – and said calls for board resignations are inappropriate.

Deputy chair of BAFTA Dame Pippa Harris told Sky News she “absolutely” stands by chair Krishnendu Majumdar and chief executive Amanda Berry who, with guidance from the organisation’s board, went ahead with honouring Clarke after they had been made aware of allegations of verbal abuse, bullying and sexual harassment – because the information given to them was anonymous or secondhand.

In response to the claims, first published following an investigation by the Guardian newspaper, Clarke “vehemently” denied allegations of sexual misconduct and criminal behaviour but apologised “deeply” for his actions and said he would be seeking professional help.

Pippa Harris at the 2020 BAFTA Awards. Pic: Anthony Harvey/BAFTA/Shutterstock Image: Pippa Harris at the 2020 BAFTA Awards. Pic: Anthony Harvey/BAFTA/Shutterstock

BAFTA suspended the award but has faced criticism for going ahead with it in the first place.

Now, Dame Pippa has addressed the issue, speaking out for the first time in an exclusive broadcast interview with Sky News.

When asked whether Mr Majumdar should step down, Dame Pippa said: “This whole affair has been extremely difficult, as you can imagine, for everyone involved, and Krish has worked all the way through together with the board. It has been a joint decision-making process.

“Krish has not been doing anything on his own. So any criticism that has been levelled at BAFTA should be levelled at everybody. It is really not right to single people out.

“Everything that Krish did, he did with the full endorsement and knowledge of the board.”

British actor and director Noel Clarke wins BAFTA's Rising Star Award in 2009. Pic: AP Image: Noel Clarke was first honoured by BAFTA in 2009, when he picked up the rising star award. Pic: AP

Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe, who founded the British Urban Film Festival and has worked with BAFTA, has given up his membership, upset at how the allegations against Clarke were handled.

“People need to be held accountable,” he said. “As an organisation, that starts from the top. If the chief exec needs to go too, so be it.

“Krish cannot continue in his post because him being there, him remaining there, just sends completely the wrong signal because whichever way you look at it, BAFTA have just dealt with this horrendously.”

When Sky News pointed out the positive changes Mr Majumdar has made in his role as BAFTA chair, being instrumental for turning things around on diversity and inclusion in the last 18 months, Mr Anyiam-Osigwe said: “It counts for nothing. I feel completely let down.”

BAFTA chair Krishnendu Majumdar ahead of the 2021 nominations. Pic: Jamie Simonds/BAFTA/Shutterstock Image: BAFTA chair Krishnendu Majumdar. Pic: Jamie Simonds/BAFTA/Shutterstock

Like BAFTA, the film festival also honoured Clarke with a lifetime achievement award in 2019 – an accolade they stripped from him hours after the allegations came out.

“Our association with Noel started and ended when we gave him the honorary award… so when I read the article [detailing the allegations against Clarke] I was in complete shock,” Mr Anyiam-Osigwe said.

Dame Pippa has insisted that calling for resignations of the BAFTA board is not the way forward.

“If we had had one fraction of the information that the Guardian had had, we would never have given an award to Noel Clarke,” she said.

“That is obvious, but we didn’t have that information. The first time that we saw the actual allegations against him was when they were published by the Guardian newspaper and as soon as we saw the allegations, we suspended the award.”

Following the claims of more than 20 women detailed in the Guardian, BAFTA wrote to its 8,000 members to stress that the alleged behaviour is contrary to the organisation’s values, saying “it would have been improper to halt the award at that point based on the extremely limited information”.

Noel Clarke  Image: Clarke in Bulletproof with co-star Ashley Walters. Pic: Sky UK

Clarke won early acclaim for his role in the films Kidulthood and Adulthood, which he starred in and also helped to write and direct.

He found more mainstream fame as Mickey Smith in Doctor Who from 2005 to 2010, and as Aaron Bishop in Bulletproof from 2018.

As well as his recent BAFTA, the London-born actor was awarded the academy’s rising star prize in 2009 after the success of his two break-out films.

Following the publication of the allegations, the last episode of five-part ITV show Viewpoint, starring Clarke, was pulled from the schedule, and Sky announced it was halting production of series four of Bulletproof. His Bulletproof co-star Ashley Walters said he was “deeply saddened” but could not “stand by and ignore allegations”.

On Tuesday, actor Adam Deacon accused Clarke, who he starred with in Kidulthood and Adulthood, of sabotaging his career.

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