Passion Pictures and RTS NW have announced that the RTS NW Best Breakthrough Talent Award will become the Caroline Aherne Award in 2024.

The award will pay tribute to Aherne ‘s work and “serve as a lasting legacy for her contribution to the sector.”

The renaming of the award comes ahead of Passion Pictures’ feature documentary, Caroline Aherne – Queen of Comedy’s showing on BBC Two on Christmas Day.

The unique life and talent of Caroline Aherne is celebrated in the new Arena film, featuring unseen photographs and contributions from a cast of her lifelong friends, including Steve Coogan, Jon Thompson, Craig Cash and producer Andy Harries.

Aherne’s pioneering representation of working class and family life in The Royle Family won her three Baftas and changed comedy writing forever, while her alter-ego Mrs Merton’s question to stage performer Debbie McGee – “So what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?” – is considered one of the greatest comic one-liners in British TV history.

The film traces Aherne’s life from childhood in Wythenshawe, Manchester, through her early adventures as a (rare) woman on Manchester’s alternative stand-up scene and the breakthrough moment when the BBC commissioned The Mrs Merton Show. As the 90s entered its final years Aherne, with Craig Cash, conceived, wrote and starred in The Royle Family. Co-writers Henry Normal and Phil Mealy, and fellow cast members Sue Johnston, Ricky Tomlinson and Ralf Little recall the writing and acting talent at the heart the series. As her star rose, the realities of living with her own fame came to define Aherne’s life, as she became a fixture of tabloid speculation about her personal life, something she would struggle with throughout her career.

The Passion Pictures production (1 x 70) for BBC Two and BBC iPlayer is commissioned by BBC Arts. The Executive Producer for Passion Pictures is Hamish Fergusson and the Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Mark Bell.

It is produced and directed by Claire Whalley and Hannah Lowes.

Creative Managing Director PASSION Documentaries, David Moulton, said “Our ambition is also to inspire the next generation of talent from the regions. Hopefully there will be someone from Bolton, Bury or Blackburn watching who will be given the confidence in their talent and that there are opportunities available for them to enter into the industry.”

“One of the most powerful moments about the whole film is when she takes on the racist comedian Bernard Manning on The Mrs Merton show. Growing up in Bolton, I was very aware of how popular he was and would witness his kind of racist humour. It was an iconic moment when Caroline invited him onto The Mrs Merton show and called him out as a racist. It was a very brave thing to do on a live comedy show but it demonstrates not only her brilliance but her bravery, there is a lovely moment where we see her in the unseen archive footage, her making the sign of the cross just before she interviewed him – she clearly felt the fear and did it anyway.”

Jon Creamer

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