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culture: Awards for stalwarts; The great and the good of the region's television industry gathered to celebrate another year of achievements at the weekend, as well as two decades of on-screen history.

Byline: Sam Wonfor reports.

A DUO of the North-East's best-known and loved presenters took the top honours at the North-East and Borders 20th anniversary Royal Television Awards at the weekend.

Eric Robson was honoured for his 30- plus years in the business, while Luke Casey's long-running countryside chronicle series Dales Diary beat off competition from the likes of Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Our Friends in the North, Byker Grove and The Tube to pick up the ceremony's inaugural Viewer's Choice award.

Saturday night saw more than 700 glad-rag-clad guests from across the broadcasting industry taking their places inside The Sage Gateshead for an landmark evening of celebration and back slapping. And a right royal time they had, too, by all accounts.

Presented, as has been the form for many years, by ITV News presenter Nicholas Owen, the awards recognised achievements across news, documentaries, drama, student production, animation and post production... as well as the lifetime achievements of a certain Mr Robson.

The prestigious Centre Award was bestowed on the presenter and producer - marking more than three decades of success as a broadcaster and television documentary maker with series' such as Out of Town for ITV and as chairman of BBC Radio Four's Gardeners' Question Time just two entries on his long and varied CV.

He was clearly delighted to accept the honour. "It's fantastic to be honoured in this way," he said.

"But much more important than an honour is how these awards have grown in scope and quality.

This is a place to be reckoned with. London had better watch out - we're on their tail!"

During the course of the ceremony, ITV1 psychological drama Wire in the Blood - which stars Robson Green - cemented its place as a major slice of the schedules by winning the Best Drama / Entertainment trophy for the second year running. The series is filmed on location throughout the region, and is made by Robson's Newcastle-based production company, Coastal.

The lower budget drama/entertainment award went to ITV Border's Still on the Road, which followed hard-working musicians and bands who continue their mile-counting tours - not for the fame and fortune which comes with chart-topping success - but for the sheer love of it.

Film-maker Patrick Collerton, who was honoured two years ago for The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off, the story of Alnwick man, Jonny Kennedy, returned to the podium during Saturday's ceremony.

His company YIPP Films won Best Factual Production (higher budget category) for Channel Four's The Town That's Looking for Love, a documentary fuelled by the pleading advert placed by Vince Peart, back in 2005. Vince, who lives in Alston in Cumbria, made national news when he advertised for single women to come to his town.

"This event is a reflection of the strengths of the North-East and the Borders area," said Graeme Thompson, chair of the RTS centre. "It marks the experience and enduring popularity of television professionals such as Luke Casey, Robson Green and Eric Robson and at the same time it celebrates the innovation and enterprise of a new generation harnessing new technologies and new markets.

"On this the 20th anniversary of these awards, we are pleased to look back at two decades of achievement in the region's production sector. But I hope the event also underlines the confidence and talent that will take our industry into the next era of change and opportunity". Other awards went to the BBC's David Morrison, who carried off the Best Journalist trophy and the Best Factual award (in the lower budget category) for his undercover report for Inside Out, looking at Sunderland's parking attendants.

Student Awards were won by Lauren Hunter of University of Sunderland, Darren Horne and Matt Thompson of Cumbria Institute of the Arts, and Mark Bell of Northumbria University.

New Media was celebrated for the first time, with world-class games company Eutechnyx taking the honours for Big Mutha Truckers 2 while the Moving Image Company of the Year Award went to Newcastle-based Mere Mortals.

For a full list of winners, visit www.rts.org.uk

CAPTION(S):

HONOURED: NFM director Tom Harvey with Sandra and Ken Jobling and Robson Green, from Coastal Productions, with Charlie Hardwick. Right, Luke Casey receives his award from veteran presenter Mike Neville.' 30 YEARS: Eric Robson receives his award from One North- East's Margaret Fay.' PLEA FOR TOWN: Vince Peart, of Alston.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 22, 2007
Words:724
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