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Ken Blackburn wins Equity gong

Actor Ken Blackburn has been recognised for 60 years of hard working entertaining New Zealanders across stage, screen and radio.

Ken won the Equity Lifetime Achievement Award for his roles in hundreds of theatre productions and in New Zealand TV classics includingGilding On, Hunter’s Gold and, more recently, The Brokenwood Mysteries.

Ken featured in Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners and King Kong but is perhaps best remembered as the dastardly Sir Bruce Warner in Shortland St and the hapless boss in Gliding On.

Ken said the award was a huge honour but it was in no way a sign that his acting career was over – he was still open for business.

“Actors don’t retire of course, they just lose the plot. But I can say I will happily go and live in a Ryman village one day because they care and they are supporters of the arts!’’

Ken grew up in war-torn Britain and was evacuated during the Blitz. After moving to New Zealand, he worked briefly as a school teacher before taking up acting fulltime. One of New Zealand’s first professional actors, he has performed in more than 500 productions, and had a varied career.

“I’ve served seven monarchs – I’ve been poisoned, tortured, and forgiven by them. I’ve even been seduced by the Queen of the Nile. Not many careers give you that sort of variety.’’

The Equity Lifetime Achievement Award, which is sponsored by Ryman Healthcare, was set up three years ago to acknowledge the contribution of New Zealand’s long-serving actors to the industry and to mentoring generations of younger actors. Previous winners include Dame Kate Harcourt and Elizabeth McRae.

Ryman Corporate Affairs Manager David King said the award was also intended as a big thank you from the New Zealand public for all the hours of entertainment Ken had brought to so many people.

A contingent of Ryman Healthcare residents from Edmund Hillary and Bert Sutcliffe villages attended the awards to cheer Ken on.

The awards ceremony featured a star-studded line-up of tributes, speeches and performances from the likes of Roger Hall, Tony Barry, Emma Sloman, Danny Mulheron, Michael Hurst, Elizabeth McRae, Ian Mune, Rebekah Head, Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Zak Enayat.

Associate Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage Carmel Sepuloni said Ken had made a huge contribution to New Zealand entertainment over his long career and she thanked him for his work. Equity president Jennifer Ward-Lealand said Ken had also made a huge contribution to his fellow actors.



“Ken Blackburn has inspired so many artists and audiences with his performances on screen and stage. He is also an incredibly talented director and writer. It was a real treat to look back on all he has achieved – and still is – since he began his acting career in 1963. A huge thank you to the many musicians, performers, family, friends and Ryman Healthcare for making night possible”.