Noel Clarke dedicates BAFTAs Outstanding Contribution award to “the underrepresented” in powerful speech

The actor reflected on his Rising Star win 13 years ago and shared some inspiring words to those watching at home

Noel Clarke dedicated his BAFTA award for Outstanding British Contribution To Cinema to “the underrepresented” tonight (April 10).

The actor collected the trophy at the “opening night” ceremony, which precedes tomorrow’s (April 11) main show.

In a moving and powerful speech, the British actor reflected on his last BAFTAs win, which came in 2009 when he won the Rising Star Award. Speaking about accepting that award, he said: “I bounced off my chair and I popped my collar as I went up. For years, I never really understood why I did that. I couldn’t articulate it.

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“For years, people have told me how arrogant it was, that I shouldn’t have done it and I’ve always said to myself, if I ever got back on this stage again, I’d apologise for it. I’m not gonna do that.”

He continued to explain that he had recently realised why he had collected the award in that manner 13 years ago. “I felt vindicated,” he said. “I’d won something at the time that someone like me wasn’t supposed to, something I’d been told I couldn’t.”

Clarke acknowledged that while not everything he had been involved in had been BAFTA-worthy, the award he received tonight honoured his journey.

He concluded his acceptance speech by dedicating the awards to “the underrepresented”. “Anyone who sits at home thinking they can achieve more,” he added. “This is particularly for my young Black boys and girls out there who never believed that this could happen to them.

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“I’m so, so thankful for this. Years ago, I ended with the words ‘Yes we can’ and we still can, it’s just tough. So I wanted to end this one a little bit different. Sometimes you’ll feel like it’s not achievable – it is. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re not good enough – you are. Sometimes you’ll feel like you don’t deserve it – you do. Thank you.” Watch Clarke’s speech in full above now.

The opening night of the BAFTAs 2021 saw the first nine awards handed out. The rest of the winners will be revealed – you can follow along live on NME.com here.

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