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Documentary-maker and campaigner for gender equality in factual TV Clare Richards has been named the Grierson Hero of the Year.

Sponsored by The Talent Manager, the award recognises Richards’ efforts as a founding member of peer network We are Doc Women, a collective of more than 150 female directors, producers, assistant producers and executive producers. 

The group pushed for greater female representation behind the camera with last year's 50/50 pledge - with 67 indies, broadcasters and streamers now signed up to have 50% of factual programmes directed by women.

Amazon Prime Studios, BBC Studios Factual and Channel 4 Documentaries are among those making the commitment, after the collective's TV Gender Pay Gap Report found that men accounted for 72% of directors/series directors and 67% of producer/directors of a year’s TV factual output.

We Are Doc Women has also worked with Bafta to address a gender imbalance in the academy’s director shortlists in its TV Craft Awards, in which only one woman has ever won the best factual director award – Teresa Griffiths for Lee Miller: A Life on the Front Line in 2021.

From the 2023 awards, three docs helmed by women and three made by men will go forward to second-round voting.

Of the progress the collective has made so far, Richards said: “Our network has created an energy that’s propelled us to make impact way beyond my expectations. I hope we continue to harness this momentum together as an industry.”

Career highlights

As a freelance self-shooting producer/director, Richards has tackled sensitive social issues such as disability, domestic violence, sexuality and race in her films.

She won the 2006 Grierson Bloomberg Newcome Award for her first doc, Disabled and Looking for Love, which she made with Lambent Productions for BBC3.

Her other notable docs include Grierson-nominated BBC2 Horizon doc What’s the Matter with Tony Slattery? (Sundog Pictures) which explored the comedian and actor’s bipolar diagnosis; Channel 4 Covid-related doc The Year That Changed Love (Keo Films); and BBC2’s A World Without Down’s Syndrome? (Dragonfly) in which actor Sally Phillips, whose daughter has Down’s, examined the potential impact of a new screening test for the condition.

Praise for Clare

Richards was nominated for the Hero award by producer/directors Laura Martin Robinson and Marina Parker.

Robinson described Richards as “incredibly inspiring” for her belief in “the power of community and the possibility it holds for change”.

Parker said she admired Richards’ “grace, humour and honesty”, adding: “Clare has worked tirelessly, unpaid, and dealt with bumps in the road. It is now turning into a campaign force working with broadcasters and indies for real change.”

Grierson chair Lorraine Heggessey said We are Doc Women has “started to effect real and substantial change within the documentary industry”.

She added: “Clare is a prime example of someone who is prepared to put her head above the parapet and name uncomfortable truths, going the extra mile and having a real impact on the sector.”

Hero of the Year

Richards is the second winner of the Grierson Hero of the Year Award and will receive the honour at this year’s awards ceremony.

Last year’s inaugural winner was production manager Serena Kennedy.

The ceremony will be held at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank in London on Tuesday 10 November. To buy tickets for the ceremony, click here


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