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The First ARIA Awards

Posted on 25 Nov 2011

In anticipation of this Sunday's ARIA Awards (to our friends overseas, these awards are Australia's version of the Brit's or Grammy's), we pulled aside our Head of Creative Services, Philip Mortlock, and asked him what his memories were of the first ARIA's in 1987, in particular the ARIA Trophy which he designed for the first ARIA award and would go on to be used until 1989. Philip was also the Video Producer/Director for the first year.

“It was a black tie sit down dinner in the Wentworth Hotel Ballroom in Sydney. Elton John was the host and it was not televised. It was the year of John Farnham’s huge Whispering Jack album and it seemed he was winning nearly every award. When Jenny Morris got up to accept her Best Female Artist award she quipped “at least this is one award John Farnham had no chance of winning”. There was a lot of camaraderie and good humour during the award proceedings. Elton did say at a particularly great moment  “Don’t ever put these awards on TV – it would kill the vibe”
There was little or no budget for the production of the awards or the presentation so we managed to make the first ARIA Award out of black vinyl (appropriately) and this was the Award presented to winners for the first two years. The Award nominees and winners video packages were prepared in a dark, quarantined video production studio during the week leading up to the awards using midnight to dawn ‘down time’ sessions to get the job done “
The original ARIA Award was designed by Philip who later joined the ARIA awards Board of Governors and championed the commissioning for a proper Award – the pointy one we now know. The current Award designed by Mark Denning, which was introduced in the 3rd year, is solid, silver and heavy and is seen as an iconic symbol of the Awards. Philip remembers that Winners receive the large silver one with Nominees receiving smaller versions. All that remains of the original award design is the deco styled ARIA logo embossed in the foot of the Award. “My only concern” says Philip “was that a winner recipient might trip, stumble &  fall on their award after accepting. Those TV lights can blind an emotionally charged winner! “

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