Whicker’s World Foundation Award Winners Announced

Giving out a total of £100,000 in prizes to support authored documentary talent, Whicker’s World Foundation is delighted to announce the winners in all three categories: audio, funding and 50+ award. The winners were announced yesterday during the Sheffield Doc/Fest Awards Ceremony in the Crucible Theatre. 

The top prize went to young historian Alex Bescoby, from Manchester, who won the £80,000 Funding Award for his film Burma’s Lost Royals. Cambridge graduate Adam James Smith was awarded the £10,000 runner up prize after pitching his film Americaville to a panel of industry professionals including filmmaker Mak CK, media executive Jane Mote, documentary legend Roger Graef, director and CEO of Sheffield Doc/Fest Liz McIntyre and Whicker’s World Foundation founder Valerie Kleeman.

Focusing on the forgotten monarchy of Myanmar, Burma’s Lost Royals will follow a family who have spent a century living incognito in their own homeland. After King Thibaw’s death, the country plunged in to decades of civil war and the royals were forced to hide their identities in order to stay out of prison and alive. Now after an extraordinary year of change, King Thibaw’s great-grandson will attempt to reunite his kin and bring the king’s body back to its righteous homeland.

On his extraordinary win, the largest ever single prize awarded at Doc/Fest, Alex said “I only picked up a camera two years ago and whilst working in Burma had an epiphany. This story for me opened the windows to Burma’s soul and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to tell it.” 


Runner-up Adam James Smith was thrilled with his prize. Americaville follows the story of an American replica town in Hebei Province, China where the residents eat fruit loops and celebrate the 4th of July. Yet their ‘American dream in China’ is not all that it is hyped up to be, and the residents soon realise that they cannot escape their less than peaceful surroundings.

BAFTA-winning documentarian Roger Graef summarised the compelling central themes: “Americaville is a precious and idiosynchratic story that tells us much about China and its ambivalent attitude to the US.

Audio award winner Cathy Fitzgerald with judges Alan Hall and Rikke Houd and Whicker's World Foundation artistic director Jane Ray
Audio award winner Cathy Fitzgerald with judges Alan Hall and Rikke Houd and Whicker’s World Foundation artistic director Jane Ray

In addition to the funding award, we also announced the winners and runners up in our audio recognition and first timers over 50 categories during the ceremony. The winner of the first prize of £4,000 is Cathy Fitzgerald for her piece Little Volcanoes. Recorded, written and produced by Cathy for Sky Arts, this is the first time a podcast rather than a radio documentary has won a major award in the UK.

Catherine follows the rhythms of a day at Pilgrims Hospice, Margate, from early morning, meeting Claudia the cat at the end of the night shift to the nurse’s final “goodnight” to her patients. We hear conversations with patients as they talk about their illnesses; the things and people they love.

Amongst the audio judges was Alan Hall, founder of In the Dark Radio. He said of the winning piece: “The artifice is very well hidden, though the use of sound is highly accomplished and people are treated with an open sensitivity. It gives you an insight in to a world that most of us haven’t previously inhabited.”

The runner-up was Francesca Panetta from London, for her enchanting audio piece The Dhammazedi Bell. The story is of a 400 year old myth that alleges that claims that the largest bell in the world rolled to the bottom of the Bago River during an attempted theft.  Francesca will go away with the £1,000 for her hugely captivating and compelling piece.

Prizes were also given to Joel Carnegie from Geelong, Australia and Eve Conlon from Newcastle. They were awarded the £250 highly-commended short form award for their documentaries From Music in to Silence and Student Gamblers, respectively. We were delighted to have guests and friends from all over the world attend the pitch and ceremony, including former ITV Director of Factual Richard Klein and European Documentary Network director Paul Pauwels.

Eve Conlon and Joel Carnegie celebrate their win in Sheffield Winter Garden.
Eve Conlon and Joel Carnegie celebrate their win in Sheffield Winter Garden.

The winner of the 50+ award for first-time authored documentary makers over 50 was Keith Ernest Hoult for his short doc Fluechtlinge: Refugee. When he witnessed his friend’s wife Caroline trying to help refugees against a growing backlash he ‘felt the urge to film it if only for her family to reflect on later in life’. He went back to study documentary at the SAE Institute after redundancy and divorce turned his life upside-down.

On triumphing after hardship and learning a valuable new skill in the mix, Keith said: “It was a tremendous uplift to be recognised and win the veteran’s award. The only thing I’ve ever won is a raffle prize.  To win something so soon after major changes in my life is amazing.”

Despite being elected the next Speaker of the House of Lords that very same day, the award’s runner-up Norman Fowler made it to the awards ceremony to scoop his £1,000 prize alongside Keith. In his documentary series The Truth About AIDS, Lord Fowler travels the UK, US, Australia and Russia to compare experiences and find out how far prejudice is still hampering effective policies for AIDS prevention. The former Health Secretary has a long history in tackling this issue with his 1987 leaflet Don’t Die of Ignorance, written alongside Chief medical Officer Sir Donald Acheson, having once been sent out to every household in the UK. The leaflet explained in frank detail how HIV is spread, enlightening a whole country on an often hushed-up and tabooed matter.

From left to right 50+ Award runner up Lord Fowler, Whicker's World Foundation Awards organiser Megan O'Hara, award winner Keith Hoult and BAFTA-winning documentary maker Roger Graef.
From left to right 50+ Award runner up Lord Fowler, Whicker’s World Foundation Awards organiser Megan O’Hara, award winner Keith Hoult and BAFTA-winning documentary maker Roger Graef.

Whicker’s World Foundation were absolutely thrilled with the results of their first ever pitch and inaugural year of empowering great documentary to flourish. The foundation was set up by the legacy of influential journalist Alan Whicker, who passed away in 2013 leaving £100,000 a year to help documentary makers in a competitive and trying industry.  The foundation is rewarding a spirit of inquisitiveness that will leave the viewer wanting more, and tell something new and unexpected about the world.

Our founder Valerie Kleeman, photographer, programme consultant and Alan’s partner for more than 40 years, said of the awards:

“Alan’s wish was that the Foundation should provide a platform for young documentary makers. He would be amazed and delighted by so much of what we have seen.  We looked for surprise and originality and have not been disappointed- the sheer variety of entries has been overwhelming, the choices agonising.  The spirit of Whicker’s World is alive and flourishing in the most unexpected and inaccessible places.”

We’d like to thank all of our applicants and finalists for their hard work and dedication over the last few months. It’s been a wonderful year of getting to know so many talented documentary makers from all over the world, and we look forward to the next round of applications, the opening of which will be announced in the next few months.

Be sure to check out our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for all upcoming news and criteria changes. For further information on Whicker’s World Foundation and what we do please email info@whickersworldfoundation.com. 

By Megan O’Hara