I've an Ivor at last – songwriter waits 32 years for award

Uncollected statuette, sold at jumble sale, finally reaches its intended recipient
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The Independent Culture

When Britain's best songwriters celebrate winning Ivor Novello Awards this Thursday, for most of them it will be the pinnacle of their career. But their jubilation will pale in comparison to that felt by a fellow songwriter who has had to wait 32 years for his award.

The lyricist Gary Osborne has belatedly received one of the famous bronze prizes for his work on the 1978 concept album, Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds.

The discovery of the previously unknown trophy bearing his name is doubly sweet, making him and his dad – the late Tony Osborne, who won Ivors in 1960 and 1962 – the first father and son composers to receive statuettes in the event's 55-year history.

Mr Osborne, 62, now the chairman of the Ivor Novello Awards committee, who has written for the likes of Elton John and Kiki Dee, thought it was a "bloody cheek" when he failed to receive a 1979 Ivor for The War of the Worlds (TWOTW). To add insult to injury, Wayne won an award for Best Instrumental or Popular Orchestral Work, despite the album – which has sold about 15 million copies to date – featuring lyrics by Mr Osborne and including singers such as David Essex.

Although an award statuette was made for him, Mr Osborne was not invited to the ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London, in 1980.

The uncollected trophy ended up at a car boot sale in Blindley Heath, Surrey, where Peter Shepherd, 60, a decorator from Croydon, bought it for £60 in 1987. It lay forgotten in his shed for 20 years until he found it when moving house.

Mr Shepherd looked into selling the award at auction or to a memorabilia collector. But his "conscience got the better" of him and he contacted the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (Basca), the organisation that runs the Ivors.

Basca bought the statuette from Mr Shepherd at cost price – much less than he could have raised at auction – and he handed over the Ivor to its rightful owner last month. The trophy has since enjoyed pride of place in Mr Osborne's home in Angmering-on-Sea, West Sussex. "I am the only lyricist who has an Ivor for an instrumental, which puts me a cut above the rest," he said.

It is not known why the award was made but never presented, but Mr Osborne suspects it was a "cock-up" rather than a conspiracy. Its existence is particularly poignant for him because when his father emigrated to Australia in 1984, he gave both his Ivors to Gary's sister, Jan, and told his son that, as a songwriter, he could win his own. Tony died in 2009 without knowing his son had done just that.

Mike Wilson, who has made the Ivor statuettes since 1975, confirmed the award was genuine. He said the event's sponsors, the Performing Right Society (now known as PRS for Music), commissioned the statuette but it may not have been on the list held by Basca, which presented the awards.

Jeff Wayne said Mr Osborne's award was "so long overdue". He claimed the category into which his album was placed was "absolutely ridiculous". "Considering TWOTW has Richard Burton narrating, and Justin Hayward, David Essex, Phil Lynott and Julie Covington singing, along with a number of other highly regarded singers singing their hearts out, how could TWOTW possibly be even the worst instrumental work of the year, much less the best? Or the best orchestral work?"

Brian Willey, the chairman of Basca in 1979, assumed the publishers had given PRS Mr Osborne's name but said that, as it was an instrumental award, it would not have been acceptable to give it to a lyricist.

Basca will present the award to Mr Osborne at a later date. "I wouldn't want too much fuss made but on the other hand it would finish the story if they give it to me," he said.