'This is for the underrepresented': Noel Clarke dedicates Bafta award to 'my young black boys and girls out there'

  • Watch Noel Clarke's Bafta speech

Noel Clarke delivered an impassioned speech celebrating “my young black boys and girls out there” as he accepted a special award on the opening night of the Baftas.

The actor, writer and director, 45, received the gong for outstanding British contribution to cinema during Saturday’s broadcast from the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Clarke was first recognised by Bafta in 2009, when he won the Rising Star prize.

Recalling that night, he said: “Thirteen years ago when I won the rising star award I bounced off my chair and I popped my collar as I went up.

“For years I never really understood why I did that. I couldn’t articulate it. For years people have told me how arrogant it was, that I shouldn’t have done it, and I have always said to myself that if I ever got back on this stage again I would apologise for it.

“I’m not going to do that. Recently I realised why I did it. I felt vindicated. I won something at the time that someone like me was never supposed to. Something that I had been told I couldn’t.”

Noel Clarke received the gong for outstanding British contribution to cinema. Credit: PA

Clarke said his journey in the film industry "has been a battle at times" but he has tried to "elicit change" during his career.

The outstanding contribution award is among Bafta’s highest prizes and is presented annually in honour of Michael Balcon, the British film producer known for his work with Ealing Studios.

Previous recipients include Andy Serkis and Sir Ridley and Tony Scott.

Clarke dedicated the award to “the underrepresented, anyone who sits at home believing that they can achieve more.

“This is particularly for my young black boys and girls out there who never believed that this could happen to them.

“I am so, so thankful for this. Years ago I ended with the words, ‘Yes we can’ and we still can. It’s just tough. So I wanted to end this one a little bit different.

“Sometimes you will feel like it is not achievable. It is. Sometimes you will feel like you are not good enough. You are. And sometimes you will feel like you don’t deserve it. You do.”

Co-host Clara Amfo later praised him for his “powerful and incredible words”.

Clarke wrote and starred in the acclaimed film trilogy Kidulthood, Adulthood and Brotherhood, and directed two of them.

He made his first TV appearance more than 20 years ago in the Channel 4 series Metrosexuality, and gained fame for his roles as Mickey Smith in Doctor Who and Wyman Norris in Auf Wiedershen, Pet.

This year’s awards are being handed out over two nights in largely virtual ceremonies, with behind the camera categories, including casting and make-up, announced on Saturday.

Coming-of-age drama Rocks was the first winner of the night with Lucy Pardee securing the Bafta for casting.

Costume design and hair and make-up both then went to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, before Mank won the gong for production design.

Christopher Nolan’s time-bending thriller Tenet picked up the Bafta for special visual effects, while the best sound prize went to The Sound Of Metal, about a drummer who loses his hearing.

BBC Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo and broadcaster Rhianna Dhillon hosted from an empty Royal Albert Hall in London and were joined by actress Joanna Scanlan.

Amfo kicked off the evening with a tribute to Philip, who became Bafta’s first president in 1959, following his death on Friday aged 99.

“It was Prince Philip and Her Majesty the Queen’s support throughout these years that in many ways allowed Bafta, a leading charity in the arts, to continue in difficult times and to be here today in 2021 celebrating another outstanding year of achievement in film,” she said.