The Oldie of the Year Awards 2020 name Petula Clark as Oldie of The Year
The nation’s favourite annual awards - The Oldie of the Year (or ‘TOOTY’ for short) - have gone ahead despite current restrictions, injecting a note of much-needed levity to a gloomy year by honouring the best of the older generation.
Deprived of the usual raucous lunch ceremony at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, this year’s winners are no less esteemed and venerable. They were chosen by a committee of judges comprising Gyles Brandreth, Dame Maureen Lipman, Sir Tim Rice, Quentin Letts, Rachel Johnson, Craig Brown, Roger Lewis, James Pembroke and Harry Mount. The eight winners will celebrate at home with their feet up, having been revealed in the December issue of The Oldie magazine.
The 2020 Oldie of the Year is Petula Clark, photographed above in Geneva with her award. Photo: David Hadzis
The principal Oldie of the Year award goes to Petula Clark, whose eight-decade career in showbusiness skyrocketed during the Blitz and hasn’t slowed down since. This year, she stole the show as the Bird Woman in the West End revival of Mary Poppins. She accepted her award via videolink from Gyles Brandreth, who metaphorically rolled out the red carpet from the National Carpet Museum in Kidderminster.
She’s danced with Fred Astaire, sung with Sinatra and sold 68 million records. And now she’s the Oldie of the Year 2020. Clark said, “I guess, if you live long enough, you’re going to get one of these. I’ve had a whole bunch of awards presented to me over the years but I never thought I’d get this one. I’m truly delighted and flattered to be receiving this award, and it’s going to be in pride of place between my two Grammys.”
The other winners:
William Roache has acted in Coronation Street for 60 years this December, making him the longest-running character in a soap opera in the world. For this, he takes home Oldie Non-Resting Actor of the Year. In the eyes of judge and fellow Street resident, Dame Maureen Lipman, “Bill has made the character of Ken Barlow truthful, intelligent, warm, perceptive and occasionally rather – ding-dong! – racy.”
Dame Joan Plowright, now 91, has had a long and distinguished career, bringing to life an extraordinary range of parts, from farmers’ daughters to Joan of Arc. And now Laurence Olivier’s widow is this year’s Oldie Great Dame of the Year. As Oldie theatre critic, Paul Bailey, writes, “I saw, and vividly remember, two of her earliest performances, both at the Royal Court Theatre in the heady years when it was a place of continual excitement and discovery. She was deliciously bawdy as Mrs Margery Pinchwife in Wycherley’s The Country Wife, but it was as the idealistic Beatie Bryant in Arnold Wesker’s Roots that she first displayed the glowing, passionate energy that she has made her hallmark.”
Edna O’Brien has, at the age of 89, become the Brainy Oldie of the Year. According to judge Roger Lewis, “She is the world’s greatest living novelist. She began as a beautiful, Irish elf-maiden, whose books were banned and burnt by the outraged Catholic clergy. And here she is today, having quite vanquished narrow-minded critics and moralists, to be a grand old queen of letters, a Dame of the British Empire, officially anointed in Dublin as a ‘Saoi’ or Wise One.”
Sir Frank Bowling, 86, knighted in October, is now the Oldie Artist of the Year. Oldie art critic, Huon Mallalieu, says, “Although he left Guyana at 19, its colours and brightness light up his canvases. In Britain, he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art, where contemporaries included David Hockney, Peter Blake and R.B. Kitaj. When, in 1962, he was awarded the silver medal many thought that he, rather than Hockney, deserved the gold.”
At 88, Lady Glenconner is our Oldie Memoirist of the Year. Her friend Hugo Vickers says, “She was already well-known through many a TV interview, having been a Maid of Honour at the 1953 Coronation, a friend and Lady-in-Waiting to Princess Margaret, and as wife of the maverick Colin Glenconner, who bought the island of Mustique and turned it into the most exclusive and glamorous of all Caribbean resorts. Since 2019, she has shot to global fame with her best-selling memoir, Lady in Waiting. To talk to Anne today is to hear news of Russian editions, Japanese translations and excitement for her new book, Murder on Mustique.”
Our Oldie Crooner of the Year is Chelsea Pensioner, winner of Britain’s Got Talent and former Royal Artillery forward observer Colin Thackery, aged 90. Quentin Letts writes, “He joined the Army and fought in Korea. En route to war, he belted out morale-boosting songs on his troop-ship. He often slips down to the dementia ward at the Royal Hospital and sings with comrades there, former fighting men whose minds may have wandered but who can still recall a tune.”
Our Oldie Puppeteer of the Year is Roger Law, 79, creator of Spitting Image. As Spitting Image producer John Lloyd recalls, “When he should be dozing by the fire with his eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, Roger Law has had the temerity to revive Spitting Image, 36 years after it began. He’s mad, incorrigible, a fabulous beast and a force of nature. And all this in the same dusty, blue fisherman’s smock.”
About the judges:
The awards are nominated by an eclectic panel of judges. Chaired by Gyles Brandreth for the sixth year in a row, the 2020 judges were Dame Maureen Lipman (Actress), Sir Tim Rice (Lyricist), Quentin Letts (Journalist and Theatre Critic), Rachel Johnson (Journalist), Craig Brown (Satirist) and Roger Lewis (Author). The Oldie’s editor Harry Mount and publisher James Pembroke also join the judging panel.