Celebrities voice referendum opinions at South Bank Sky Arts Awards


Eddie Izzard, Lord Melvyn Bragg and Elaine Paige were among the celebrities voicing their opinions on the EU referendum at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards.

Comedian Eddie, who is receiving the outstanding achievement award, was sporting both a manicure and badges emblazoned with the Union Jack and EU flag as he walked the blue carpet at The Savoy Theatre in London.

Backing the Remain campaign, he said: "I'm worried about how if there was a Brexit and recession how it would affect the arts and the economy and people's lives and the sciences."

Urging young voters to register before the deadline on Tuesday, he said: "Young people want a vision for the future and they want to know how it affects them - this really affects them. It's the end of low-cost flights across Europe, free roaming charges, free healthcare across 28 countries. Young people see the logic of it, this kind of politics, open handed instead of the pull back."

He is currently visiting 31 cities in 31 days to urge people to vote Remain, and will give a special performance of his Force Majeure tour in Normandy on Monday to mark the anniversary of D-Day.

Eddie Izzard winning an award
Eddie Izzard (Chris Radburn/PA)

Lord Bragg, who is hosting the arts awards ceremony, agreed with Eddie. "I want to stay in Europe. Anyone who has reckoned what two world wars mean thinks Europe should stick together and then we don't have another."

Musical theatre veteran Elaine Paige, however, said she was still "a bit on the fence", but backed an exit.

She said: "I'm of the feeling to leave, but I'm probably a minority in the arts when I say that.

"I think the reason is exactly what Brexit are saying, which is we need to take back control of our economy and democracy. This is the country that invented democracy and we don't seem to quite have the ways and means of making our own laws and voting our government in and voting them out when don't like them.

"We've lost power, so they keep saying anyway, and it does seem that way. It's about democracy and reclaiming our democracy."

Elaine Paige on the red carpet
Elaine Paige (Sean Zanni/AP/PA)

In May, more than 280 celebrities including Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley signed a letter backing the Remain campaign and outlining the benefits for the arts industries of staying in Europe.

The awards originated in 1997 in association with ITV's incarnation of The South Bank Show and are considered the broadest arts awards in the UK, recognising everything from opera and visual arts to TV drama. They celebrate their 20th anniversary this year.

Lord Bragg said as a snapshot of British art at the moment, they show it in "very, very good shape".

He said: "The arts are at the top of their form, London is the cultural centre of the world. If you look around, theatre, film, art, writing, television writing particularly, we're in good shape."

Celebrities including Charlotte Rampling, Martin Freeman and Doctor Foster's Bertie Carvel were also at the ceremony alongside nominees including singer Benjamin Clementine and Chewing Gum actress Michaela Coel.

Banksy's Dismaland Bemusement Park, BBC's Wolf Hall and Northern Ballet's 1984 are among the eclectic list of nominees.