Visionary Honours 2020 shortlist announcement

The second annual Visionary Honours celebrating inspirational culture, media and entertainment takes place on Wednesday 6th May during an online broadcast hosted here and on Facebook Premiere 8pm @VisionaryArtsUK.

Below are this year’s nominations:


Crossfire by Malorie Blackman (Penguin)

One of the most successful YA authors of all time, Malorie Blackman is the author of the phenomenally successful Naughts and Crosses series which has been dramatised by the BBC for release soon this year. Crossfire is the most recent book in the saga set in a dystopian future where society is divided into black and white.

Malorie Blackman says: “I’m thrilled to have been nominated for the Visionary Honours Book of the Year award in the company of so many fantastic authors and their books.  What I love about this award is the unique way that it celebrates culture, media and entertainment which seeks to move us forward.”


Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo (Hamish Hamilton)

Bernadine Evaristo jointly won the 2019 Booker prize with this novel  making her the first black woman to win the prize in its history. It is a Sunday Times bestseller and Book of the Decade, and a Barack Obama ‘Top 19 Book of 2019’. It was also a ‘Top 10 Book of 2019’ for the New Yorker, Washington Post, Financial Times and Entertainment Weekly and a Book of the Year for over twenty magazines and newspapers. 

“This is a nice surprise. It’s always heartwarming to have my work acknowledged in this way and I’m delighted to have made this list.”


It’s Not About The Burqa by Mariam Khan (Pan Macmillan)

Seventeen Muslim women speaking frankly about the hijab and wavering faith, about love and divorce, about feminism, queer identity, sex, and the twin threats of a disapproving community and a racist country. With a mix of British and international women writers, from activist Mona Eltahawy’s definition of a revolution to journalist and broadcaster Saima Mir telling the story of her experience of arranged marriage, from author Sufiya Ahmed on her Islamic feminist icon to playwright Afshan D’souza-Lodhi’s moving piece about her relationship with her hijab, these essays are funny, warm, sometimes sad, and often angry, and each of them is a passionate declaration calling time on the oppression, the lazy stereotyping, the misogyny and the Islamophobia.


It’s Not OK to Feel Blue and Other Lies edited by Scarlett Curtis (Penguin)

A beautifully curated book sharing mental health stories from influential people, Curtis’s book normalises depression and anxiety and crucially fights the taboo that admitting to mental illness is a sign of weakness. 

Proud curated by Juno Dawson (Stripes Publishing)

A stirring, bold and moving anthology of stories and poetry by YA authors and illustrators responding to the broad theme of pride, PROUD is a rainbow-riotous celebration of LGBTQ+ talent. Each piece of writing has an accompanying illustration by an artist identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

“PROUD is a diverse collection of voices from the LGBTQ+ community. I think the power of a book like PROUD is in teenage readers being able to see a future for themselves. The world is waiting.”


Truth to Power by Jess Phillips (Octopus Books)

Feminist MP Jess Phillips has navigated the corridors of power with a sharp wit and strong voice which speaks up for the underdog. Her novel offers anecdotes and practical advice on how to speak out and how to be heard as well as interviews with whistleblowers who have fought to change the course of history. 



Caroline Bryant – Futures Theatre

Social activist Caroline founded Futures Theatre in 1992 to create theatre from a female perspective and with women centre stage. Caroline enables vulnerable and marginalised women to develop their own creativity and to access cultural experiences, creating a platform where the voices of the marginalised are amplified through productions, engagement work and training. 

Caroline says: “I am thrilled to be nominated for this award, the women we work with continue to inspire me and it is fantastic to have recognition of the value of their voices and experiences.”


Darren Raymond – Intermission Youth Theatre

Darren Raymond is the Artistic Director of Intermission Youth and created Intermission Youth Theatre (IYT) in 2008. He is dedicated to inspiring the young people he works with at Intermission Youth by using drama and Shakespeare to help them make positive life choices and become the best version of themselves.

Darren is regarded as a key influencer within the arts and criminal justice, championing greater opportunity and diversity. He is a member of the RSC’s Education Advisory Committee and a Mentor for the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance.

Darren says: “Sometimes in life, there are beautiful moments that take you completely by surprise. This nomination is one of those moments for me. I feel very blessed to be considered for such an amazing award. To live in peace, happiness and community is what I live for.”


Simon Devereux – Access VFX

Simon is the founder of ACCESS:VFX, a VFX industry movement striving for better inclusion and increased diversity across the visual effects, animation and wider creative industries. ACCESS:VFX now spans a team made up of almost 60 award winning studios, industry bodies and educators. 

Simon Devereux says: “I’m thrilled, humbled and honoured to be nominated for the Community Person of the Year award for our collective work as ACCESS:VFX, and what an incredible list of fellow nominees to be in good company with! For our movement to be recognised as this level by The Visionary Arts Foundation is a wonderful thing, particularly as A:VFX was originally started to address the lack of diversity across our visual effects, animation and wider creative industries. A huge ‘thank you’ from me and our team made up of almost 60 award winning studios, industry bodies and educators!”


Sulaiman Khan – This Ability Ltd 

Sulaiman is the founder of This Ability Limited, which is a disability-led equity consultancy. He works tirelessly to destabilise the accepted narratives of creativity and disability, for disabled creatives to change the culture to make equity the default. 

Sulaiman says: “Wow. What a fantastic surprise! As a disabled AF, creative, active intersectional ally-in-progress, socially conscious entrepreneur, South Asian man, continual work-in-progress, I am proudly running my business entirely myself, out of necessity, not luxury. This is very tough due to internalised ableism, an inaccessible world (and environments), and ableist attitudes/behaviours. But I keep pushing forward (because of my disability NOT despite it) to be who I needed when I was a youngster and be my own hero. So, for me, it’s a massive honour to be recognised and nominated.” 



David Harewood: Psychosis And Me (BBC2)

At 23 years old, David Harewood had a psychotic breakdown and was sectioned. As he puts it, he ‘lost his mind’. In this film which offers a revealing insight into the realities of experiencing a psychotic breakdown, David spends time with combined emergency NHS mental health and police teams in Birmingham as they go out on 999 calls to treat people in distress, he meets young people who are living with psychosis at an early intervention group in Solihull run by psychiatrist Erin Turner and spends time with two inspirational young people to talk about their own experiences of psychosis, their treatment and ongoing recoveries.


Jesy Nelson – Odd one Out (BBC3)

Little Mix star Jesy Nelson goes on a journey of rehabilitation as she opens up about abuse she has suffered at the hands of cyberbullies and its effects on her mental health. When Jesy Nelson rose to fame with pop band Little Mix, she was abused online for being ‘the fat one’.

October Films: “Jesy and the team behind ‘Odd One Out’ are thrilled to be nominated for a Visionary Honours Award.  Jesy wanted to make the film to help other people suffering from online abuse and bullying like she did.  Cyberbullying is a real issue that affects not only celebrities but so many young people out there and we are pleased the Visionary Arts Foundation has recognized our film for highlighting the subject and having an impact.  Hopefully the film has caused a discussion in society about how social media platforms should be managed better and young people need to be protected from bullies and trolls.”


For Sama (Channel 4)

Filmmakers Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts tell the story of Waad al Kateab’s life through five years of the uprising in Aleppo, Syria as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama, all while cataclysmic conflict rises around her. The film made history by becoming the BAFTA’s most-nominated feature documentary. It also won “L’oeil d’or”, the best documentary movie award in Cannes Film Festival 2019 and multiple awards at the British Independent Film Awards.


Ice on Fire (Netflix)

Produced by Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio, George DiCaprio and Mathew Schmid and directed by Leila Conners, Ice on Fire is an eye-opening documentary that focuses on many never-before-seen solutions designed to slow down our escalating environmental crisis. The film goes beyond the current climate change narrative and offers hope that we can actually stave off the worst effects of global warming.


Homecoming (Netflix)

This intimate, in-depth look at Beyoncé’s celebrated 2018 Coachella performance was one of the most talked-about and most-watched cultural moments of 2019. It reveals the emotional road from creative concept to cultural movement and establishes Beyonce as a modern day goddess who inspires her followers everywhere.


Gareth Thomas: HIV And Me (BBC1)

Gareth ‘Alfie’ Thomas was the first Welsh player to reach 100 caps and is one of the most iconic and respected figures in world rugby. In 2019, Gareth announced that he is living with HIV. .With the help of family, friends, medical experts and others with HIV, he made this documentary about tackling the stigmas, myths and misunderstandings surrounding the condition. Modern medicine may have made the virus treatable and non-transmittable, but old ideas about HIV still persist and Gareth is on a mission to smash the stereotypes and show that ‘he has HIV and it’s OK’.



& Juliet (Luke Sheppard, Shaftesbury Theatre)

Told from the perspective of one half of Shakespeare’s greatest love story, this feelgood musical throbs to the pulse of the unsurpassable hit-maker Max Martin’s best-loved tunes.


Come From Away (Christopher Ashley, Phoenix Theatre)

In a time when the world seems increasingly polarised, Come From Away brings a heartfelt message of unity to the stage in Irene Sankoff and David Hein’s unique tale of the men and women from different backgrounds, forced to pull together in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.


FairView (Nadia Latif, Young Vic)

Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, directed by Nadia Latif, one of the strongest directors bringing difficult narratives about race to the stage right now, and written by the acclaimed Jackie Sibblies Drury, Fairview is a rule-breaking conceptual dramady about black lives and the ‘white gaze’. 


Life Of Pi (Max Webster, Sheffield Crucible)

Max Webster’s production of Lolita Chakrabarti’s adaptation of the Booker-prize-winning novel is a riot of colour and music, bringing a rare perspective of a young, poor, Indian man to the masses.


SIX (Lucy Moss/Jamie Armitage, Arts Theatre)

Written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, with direction by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage. The six wives of Henry VIII take to the mic to tell their tales, remixing five hundred years of historical heartbreak into a 75-minute celebration of 21st century girl power. 


Wife (Indhu Rubasingham, Kiln Theatre)

Writer Samuel Anderson uses Ibsen’s A Doll’s House to explore the institution of marriage from 1959 over the course of ninety years and its impact on those branded ‘Wife’. A subversively feminist work, directed by Indhu Rabasingham.

Samuel Adamson: “I’m delighted ‘Wife’ has been nominated for the Visionary Honours Musical/Play of the Year Award, and really honoured to be in the extraordinary company of ‘Six’, ‘& Juliet’, ‘Life of Pi’, ‘Come From Away’ and ‘Fairview’. It was a joy to tell this decade-jumping story about what has and hasn’t changed for LGBTQ people over the past fifty years. Many thanks to Indhu Rubasingham and everyone at Kiln Theatre, and to the Visionary Arts Foundation.”



When They See Us (Netflix/Ava Du Vernay)

Ava DuVernay’s series dramatises the Central Park Jogger case of 1989 in which five teenagers were wrongly convicted of rape. The case was a notorious miscarriage of justice whereby five young men — four black and one Hispanic — served lengthy jail time for a crime they didn’t commit. The series paints a wider picture of racism in modern America.

Seven Worlds, One Planet (BBC Studios Natural History Unit)

Placing more emphasis on the devastating effects of climate change than ever, this series drew attention to the devastation wrought on our planet through a compellingly beautiful lens. 

Jonny Keeling, Executive Producer: “This is a very special award from an organisation with great integrity and meaning – so it’s an honour and an inspiration to be nominated. Today the wildlife and people of this planet face huge challenges, but  the Visionary Arts Foundation gives me hope that we can work together to make the changes the world needs.”


Years And Years (BBC 1/Russell T Davies)

Russell T Davies’ near-future dystopian drama series follows a family across fifteen years, offering a chilling perspective on British society. 

Red Production Company says: “We’re incredibly honoured to be nominated for the Visionary Honours TV Show of the Year award for Years and Years.  We’re very proud of the series and the strong reaction to the show; we’re currently living on the edge of a possible future that Years and Years portrayed and we had to race to get the series made as times were changing so fast.  I love that our show has pushed discussion and debate around topics raised.”


Man Like Mobeen (BBC 3/Tiger Aspect Productions)

Guz Khan has created a hilarious series from an often unseen perspective about the ups and downs of Mobeen, a 28-year-old from Small Heath in Birmingham, ‘who has a job, doesn’t know any terrorists, is pretty excellent when it comes to social skills and…well probably dealt drugs for a bit’. The off-beat comedy tackles hard-hitting issues with an absurdist twist. Khan has also offered training placements to enable working class Birmingham locals to work on the show. 

Creators Guz Khan & Andy Milligan: “‘Man Like Mobeen’ making this shortlist is an enormous compliment. Everyone who works on the show is passionate about creating something that reflects a community that’s too often misrepresented on TV and the media in general. This is another step towards us changing that. (And we hope it’s funny too).”


RuPaul’s Drag Race UK (BBC 3/World Of Wonder)

A less slick, more bawdy version of its successful and preened US cousin, Drag Race UK has done more to unite a divided Britain than Boris ever could. The show has made queerness great again and is responsible for getting a new generation to talk more openly about transgenderism.

Fenton Bailey,  Producer, World Of Wonder: “Because diversity and inclusiveness is the lifeblood of Drag Race, we are honoured and excited to be nominated for best television show by Visionary Arts. We are so grateful to the viewers and fans for championing the show, and for spreading its message of love and acceptance far and wide.” 


Ross Kemp Living With… (ITV/Mongoose Productions)

In this groundbreaking series, Ross Kemp travels across the country to meet people living with some of the biggest issues affecting Britain today. He delves deep into issues such as homelessness, knife crime, young carers and more.

Ross Kemp says: “At a time when the country was preoccupied with Brexit, the team felt that it was more important than ever to shine a light on social issues that were affecting Britons’ lives in profound and often devastating ways; crises that need to be determinedly addressed whichever political direction we head in. To be shortlisted for the Visionary Awards, and to be in such esteemed company, feels like a vindication of the choice to tackle complex, and sometimes uncomfortable, subjects.”



Bella Mackie

Mackie is a journalist and author. Jog On: How Running Saved My Life is her treatise on how, if you are able-bodied, running can improve your mood, calm anxiety and make you feel good, it weaves her personal story into a tapestry of different personal accounts of how running and jogging have helped people overcome various hurdles in their life. 


Cariad Lloyd

Cariad Lloyd is a British comedian, actress, writer, and podcaster. Her podcast The Griefcast, where she interviews different comedians and notable people about their experiences of grief is now on its fifth series, helping open up discussions about grief, loss and dying.

Cariad Lloyd says: “It is a total honour to be nominated for such an excellent award amongst such excellent company. To be part of something as useful as the Visionary Arts movement means such a lot to me, the arts changed my life and I’m so happy to support an organisation trying to bring the joy of this industry to those that may not necessarily find it knocking at their door.”


Candice Carty-Williams

Author of Sunday Times bestseller Queenie, Candice is also the creator of B4ME short story prize for BAME writers in the UK and Ireland, and is a Books Columnist for Guardian Review.


Emma Barnett

Emma Barnett is a British broadcaster and journalist and a lead presenter on Newsnight, an occasional BBC Women’s Hour presenter, a BBC Radio 5 Live presenter and columnist for the Sunday Times. Jeremy Paxman has said she is his favourite interviewer. She is known for her incisive, intelligent interviews which cut to the heart of the issues of the day.


George the Poet

Artist, poet, rapper, and podcast host George the Poet’s innovative brand of musical poetry has won him critical acclaim both as a recording artist and a social commentator. Last year, he turned down an MBE, saying: “I see myself as student, admirer and friend of Britain, however the colonial trauma inflicted on the children of Africa, entrenched across our geo-political and macro-economic realities, prevents me from accepting the title Member of the British Empire.”

George the Poet: “I feel blessed to have been nominated this year. My work is driven by hope for tomorrow, and it’s an honour to have that recognised by my peers.”


Jamie Bartlett

Jamie Bartlett is a British author and journalist, primarily for The Spectator and The Telegraph. He was a Senior Fellow at Demos and was the Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos until 2017.

“What a fantastic honour to be nominated alongside so many fantastic people. Trying to improve things – even by just a very small amount – is why I do the work I do, so I’m thrilled to be nominated for an award that recognises the important impact journalism can have.”



PEOPLE – The 1975

This musical tour de force about existential malaise, the modern world, the negative impact of social media, climate change and the human need for connection is a classic in the making. 



Yungblud’s inspirational “Hope for the Underrated Youth” has become an anthem for the young generation, speaking about hope and faith in youth culture and change for the greater good of humanity. 


JUICE – Lizzo

Lizzo is a body-positive icon and her song juice about self-acceptance and self-love is an inspirational anthem.


HERO – Michael Kiwanuka

The soulful track pays homage to some of the world’s most important history-changing heroes that were taken too soon due to violence. These include some of Kiwanuka’s personal heroes, such as Martin Luther King, John Lennon, Marvin Gaye and Tupac but also resonates with a narrative of the everyday heroes losing their lives due to senseless violence on London’s streets today. 


BLACK – Dave

The first single from Dave’s debut album,”Black” is about his experience of being a black-British, Nigerian, south Londoner and about the growing trend of speaking of a single ‘black experience’ when, in fact, that experience contains multitudes of distinction.



Mabel’s slow pop tune is a direct pep talk, singing about her own mental health and encouraging all her young fans to accept the bad days and know it will get better again.



GREY AREA – Little Simz

One of the most interesting people in pop right now, Little Simz’s Grey Area is a melting pot of neo-soul, deep funk and experimental pop, without neglecting Simz’s hip hop and grime roots. The album includes features from Cleo Sol, Chronixx, Little Dragon and Michael Kiwanuka, who help illustrate Simz’s fully realized artistic vision on the project. 


ANY HUMAN FRIEND – Marika Hackman

Marika Hackman’s self-assured album is a celebration of female sexuality away from the male gaze and a vision of lesbian eroticism that sounds deeply personal. Her witty lyrics see irony in heteronormative assumptions woven into society’s rules and invite a vision of a more liberated future.



Race, abusive relationships, mental health problems, suicide ideation, the criminal justice system – nothing is out of bounds for Dave’s incisive anecdotal-style of big ideas rap with minimalist instrumentals. His work stands apart from other artists in that it never speaks down or simplifies the complex fallout of his personal psychodramas, or society’s multifarious issues. 



Prolific and experimental, Charli XCX constantly surprises with her boundary-pushing pop. Her album is an exposing map of self-scrutiny which brings in the voices of Lizzo, Haim and Christine and the Queens to create a queer mind-bending journey of self-discovery.



Addressing the systemic problem of knife crime with a compelling mix of intelligent analysis, pathos and humour, Kano’s album stresses the importance of being carefree as an antidote to the heaviness of socioeconomic constraints. Its message stays long after the album has finished playing.



There is too much to say about Stormy’s assured and brilliant album. What makes it special to Visionary Arts is that at its heart it supports our cause of diversity and social mobility. While Heavy is the Head transcends genre boundaries, it makes sure to celebrate and elevate British talent, by name-checking the likes of Malorie Blackman and Dave; an assurance that Stormzy may be about to break the US but he’ll be sure to leave the door open for other talented black artists to follow. 



Blue Story

A film about rival gangs in Peckham and Lewisham which offers real insights into Britain’s wider knife crime epidemic from writer and director Rapman.


The Last Tree

Writer-director Shola Amoo’s semi-autobiographical feature is a coming-of-age tale of a young man caught between different paths in life. Torn between Lincolnshire and London, a foster mother and birth mother, gangs and school, Femi (played with emotional rawness by Sam Adewunmi) must choose his own destiny.


Boy Erased

Directed and produced by Joel Edgerton, Boy Erased follows the son of Baptist parents who is forced to take part in a gay conversion therapy program.


Little Women

Greta Gerwig’s feature based on Louisa May Alcott’s seminal classic is a feminist tale of sisterhood for a modern age.


Queen & Slim

Melina Matsoukas’s feature debut follows a couple who just met whose lives are derailed when a policeman stops them while driving. It’s about how racism is still rife in America and how carefully black people have to police themselves to avoid persecution.


A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Based on a Esquire profile of Fred Rogers, the 1960s Children’s show presenter, this movie is a celebration of the power of everyday kindness and humanity in a fractured world. 



Jesy Nelson

Little Mix star Jesy Nelson has opened up about her mental health and become a campaigner and activist for anti-bullying.


June Sarpong

The BBC’s first Director of Creative Diversity is dedicated to initiating constitutional change within one of Britain’s most-loved institutions. She has written exhaustively about the benefits of inclusion and diversity in novels such as Diversify, The Power of Women and Diversify: An Award-winning Guide to why Inclusion is Better for Everyone. She is a tireless campaigner for diversity and change and lives out the values of the Visionary Honours.


Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton MBE is the highest-paid F1 driver and arguably the most successful racing driver of all time. Each year he pushes himself to succeed and exceed, with 84 grand prix wins to his name, he shows no sign of stopping.  Hamilton has been targeted by racist abuse throughout his career and has been outspoken in his criticism of racial politics in Formula One as well as calling for greater diversity in the sport. 


Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Creator of Fleabag and writer of Killing Eve, Phoebe Waller-Bridge has had an astronomical rise to fame. With her subversive, funny, outspoken and nuanced female characters she has raised the bar for writers everywhere to make better female characters on stage and screen. 


John Boyega

From Peckham to Star Wars, John Boyega interstellar rise hasn’t prevented him from losing his roots. The south-east London lad gives frequent shoutouts to his home, recently writing for Time Out about what his youth drama group at Theatre Peckham and the Young Vic did for his career and campaigning for a fairer, egalitarian society. So much so, he even took fellow Star Wars buddy Harrison Ford to Nigerian restaurant 805 on the Old Kent Road. 


Russell T Davies

One of the leading British television writers of his generation, Russell T Davies OBE has spent his career creating ground-breaking dramas. From taboo-busting late-nineties Queer as Folk through Doctor Who, to his latest drama series which follows a family across fifteen years, offering a chilling perspective on British society, Davies has never stopped questioning societies norms and opening our minds to new possibilities with his work.

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