Comedy awards set to honour Wood and Walters for joint achievements

When two little-known actresses co-starred in the television play Talent in 1979, a comic partnership was born that has lasted more than a quarter of a century.

Next week, the talents of Victoria Wood and Julie Walters will be honoured at the British Comedy Awards, where they will receive an award for Outstanding Contribution to Comedy.

While both women are famous in their own right - Wood for her comedy sketches and Walters for film roles including Educating Rita, Billy Elliot, Calendar Girls and the Harry Potter movies - they have won the accolade for their joint projects.

Describing Walters and Wood as "comedy legends", the award judges said the award was "celebrating their work together spanning the past 25 years". The duo's best-known collaborations include Victoria Wood - As Seen On TV, which featured the popular "Acorn Antiques" sketch, and Dinnerladies.

Wood, a drama graduate from Birmingham University, met Walters, a former nurse, when they were students. They appeared together on stage for the first time in 1978 in the In at the Death revue at the Bush Theatre in London.

On the back of that, Wood was commissioned to write Talent, and has written as well as appeared in many of their joint projects. Their early TV series included Wood and Walters, made in 1981 for Granada Television. When Wood was given her own sketch show in 1985, Walters played a series of memorable characters, including Mrs Overall, the tea lady in Acorn Antiques. The show won four Baftas.

Gill Hudson, the editor of Radio Times, said: "The appeal of both Wood and Walters goes much further than their comedy. Wood was always more than a straight stand-up comedian - she's a very sharp scriptwriter, with acute powers of social observation. As for Walters, she broke free from the 'just comedy' tag years ago, and has turned into one of the most versatile actors of a generation."

The executive producer of the British Comedy Awards, Michael Hurll, said: "I think it is an award to two of the nicest and most talented ladies in British comedy, an award that is overdue and so richly deserved."

Ricky Gervais, Ronnie Corbett and Ant and Dec will be among the celebrities attending the awards ceremony in London next Wednesday.