IFTAs show us it has come of age

Brendan O'Carroll

There are two maxims in the entertainment industry: one says there’s no business like show business and the other insists that the show must go on.

Thursday night’s IFTA Gala Television Awards, as they are now called, embodied both of these. In just one year the country’s top entertainment awards ceremony went from a car-crashing, cutlery-clanking calamity to a slick and sober affair.

When the Irish do something well, we do it really, really well. Like that time we took on England in the 2007 Rugby Six Nations and with precision, focus and unwavering determination we beat our former (sporting) enemy by a decisive 43 points to 13. Thursday night’s IFTAs had that kind of a feel to it.

Vogue Williams
Vogue Williams

The chemistry-less Laura Whitmore and Simon Delaney were replaced by veteran presenter Amanda Byram. She was overheard saying on the night how she’d spent two full weeks going over her script and could not wait to get on stage. Her enthusiasm and preparation showed.

Another key change was the ceremony split. The IFTA organisers had decided to separate Ireland’s film people from our TV people. The drama and film awards were hosted back in May and on Thursday it was just the country’s TV talent in the accolade-receiving line.

Kevin McGahern and Siobhan Cassidy
Kevin McGahern and Siobhan Cassidy

A long-in-the-tooth showbiz insider commented on the separation: “it’s like the class clown being moved away from teacher’s pet”. Without pressing the insider for clarity as to exactly who was the bold boy and who was the good girl in this equation – it was clear that this was a happy segregation.

Organisers also decided to take a leaf out of the successful-wedding-book: get the speeches out of the way first. The food was served after the awards had been bestowed and the academy had been thanked.

Sinead Desmond
Sinead Desmond

Timing was another key factor to Thursday’s success. The curtain lifted just five minutes after the scheduled kick-off and it fell as Eileen Dunne was getting ready to read the nine o’clock news. A loud-sounding cow-bell was also used before the event to herd Ireland’s glitterati away from the red carpet and towards their round tables.

The result? Ireland’s artistic talent be in it the creative field of script-writing and comedy or news and investigative documentaries got the showing it deserved.

Amanda Byram on stage
Amanda Byram on stage

Unlike Jeremy Irons or President Michael D Higgins having to shout over knives clattering against forks or hangers-on drunkenly clammering for selfies, as was the case in 2014, every recipient was given the silence they deserved to accept their award this time around.

Brendan O’Carroll, who picked up his Lifetime Achievement Award, early on in the night, seemed to have set the respectful tone.

Lorraine Keane and husband Peter Devlin
Lorraine Keane and husband Peter Devlin

He had to shush the crowd, not for their lack of attention, but because they were paying him too much attention. He used this quieting-time to wipe the many tears from his eyes before he began his speech.

“It’s a small country with a lot of good people and you tend to get knocked a lot. I’ve got back up many, many times,” he said.

Former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh with her brother Mikey Walsh.
Former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh with her brother Mikey Walsh.

This could perhaps be the industry’s third maxim: it’s about getting up time and time again.

In doing so we leave enough room to respect our talent and be proud of its offerings from a small island on the north-western precipice of Europe to an international stage.


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