Announcing our Audio Award-Winners 2018

From Guantanamo Bay, to the frozen heights of the Himalayas, a trip Down Under and back to North London (via Cuba)…

On Saturday 8 September during the annual Open City Documentary Festival, we announced our annual audio award winners for the Documentary Audio Recognition Award (DARA) and the Radio & Audio Funding Award (RAFA).

First up, Stokely in Cuba’ aka ‘I’m a Shit Activist’, a radio documentary by Isis Thompson inspired by civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael, was selected as the winner of the RAFA following a live pitch by the five finalists in front of a panel of industry judges. The judges included our Editorial Consultant Jane Mote; audio producer and editor Sarah Geis; and Steve Titherington, Senior Commissioning Editor at the BBC World Service. Isis walks away with an award of £7,000 towards the creation of her final audio documentary.

In 1967, civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael travelled to Cuba where he became fully aware of black people’s global struggle for freedom. Isis Thompson, who accordingly to family legend is related to Stokely Carmichael, has struggled herself with modern day activism. ‘I’m a Shit Activist’ will follow Isis as she confronts the ‘comfortable couch activist’ within her to create an audio guidebook for those of us who need a little help going from being clued up and informed about the wrongs in the world, to being genuinely useful agents for change.

Isis Thompson said: “To be this year’s Whicker RAFA winner feels totally and completely amazing. Coincidentally, I was taught at the NFTS by Dick Fontaine who worked with Alan Whicker for many, many years, so I feel that a lot of what was taught to me came originally from Alan. I am so delighted to have won this year’s Award and I can’t wait to get started!”

Chair of The Whickers’ Awards Committee and Alan Whicker’s long-term partner, Valerie Kleeman, said of Thompson’s selection: “We loved her enthusiasm, her originality and her honesty, and feel that she breaks new ground.”

The runners up prize of £3,000 went to ‘Biker Radio Rodcast’, India’s first motorcycling podcast presented by Shirshendu Banerjee and Arvinder Singh, which will follow several hardcore biking enthusiasts as they take part in one of the most gruelling motorcycling rallies in the world – the Raid de Himalaya.

Judge Jane Mote commented: “46 million bikers in India…who knew? I can’t wait to hear more about the world of this huge and new biking community as they take part in this physically and mentally challenging rally. The plan to take listeners into a different and surprising world that turns our preconceptions about India on their head is exactly what Alan would have wanted to do.”

Alongside the RAFA, the winner of the Documentary Audio Recognition Award (DARA), for a completed work was presented to Chicago-based radio producer Sarah Geis for her insightful and moving documentary ‘The Art of Now: Guantanamo’, produced by London-based Falling Tree Productions. Sarah receives £3,000 in recognition of her work. This compelling documentary follows Mansoor Adayfi, who spent 15 years imprisoned without charge at the American military prison at Guantanamo Bay. He takes listeners behind the headlines, telling the story of his years there through the artwork made by himself and other men detained as part of the “war on terror.”

Sarah said of the Award: “Winning The Whickers DARA award is incredibly meaningful for me as a maker of radio features, and as a huge encouragement for me to continue on and try to tell stories with interesting structures. It’s also incredibly meaningful for Mansoor Adayfi, the main voice within the piece. He is a Yemeni man detained without charge at Guantanamo for almost fifteen years who is an incredible writer and speaker with enormous resilience. He is so excited and it feels like winning this Award is really a testament to his experience, as well as the humanity of men held at Guantanamo, being recognised.”

Judge Michael Stewart said: “This is a great example of how radio can bring a world into being. Beautifully crafted, it tells a shocking story that makes us confront the appalling consequences of choices that our political leaders have made in our name.”

This year, two of the finalists were also presented with runners-up awards, receiving a prize of £750 each. ‘Deaf Heart’ by Australian producer, Georgia Moodie, follows the story of Jodee Mundy, the only person in her family who can hear. Ever since she was little, she has moved between the Deaf community and mainstream society, feeling a little out of place in both. And The Messenger (Episode 2) by Australian journalist, Michael Green and Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a 26-year-old from Sudan who was forcibly transferred to Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, by the Australian government after seeking asylum. The Messenger takes listeners into the Australian immigration detention centre on Manus Island – and reveals, in intimate detail, one man’s experience of what it’s really like to flee tragedy and seek asylum by boat.