John Sergeant steps up to collect Oldie title

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The Independent Online

Veteran journalist and budding star of the ballroom John Sergeant today exacted some revenge on his critics after scooping a top prize at the prestigious Oldie Awards.

And Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs landed the coveted Granddad of the Year Award for his "dignified response to the BBC furore surrounding phone calls about his granddaughter".

Sergeant became one of last year's most unlikely heroes for his challenging dancing style on BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing.

His unusual dance routines were loved by the public but reviled by the judges whose criticisms were a major reason behind his decision to quit the show.

But today he was rewarded by his peers who voted him Hoofer of the Year at the award ceremony in London to celebrate those of advancing years.

He said his award vindicated the criticism he had received at the hands of the Strictly Come Dancing judges.

He explained: "It was a great triumph wasn't it? A mistake that some people made is that they seemed to think I was a bad dancer. Now I don't know how they got that impression, I did everything I could to stop that."

He added: "At last I am being judged by people who know what I'm up to.

"That was the problem I had on Strictly - the judges clearly didn't understand what I was doing but here I am with, I hope, people who realise what it's all about and what I am trying to do, which was to have a lot of fun."

The BBC apologised to Sachs for "unacceptable and offensive" messages left by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross on his answer phone.

The pair left a series of crude messages which were broadcast on BBC Radio 2.

But Sachs said today he just wanted to put the episode behind him.

Asked if he had forgiven Brand and Ross he replied: "I don't harbour grudges, it's happened, there we are, it's all in the past."

Author Sir Terry Pratchett was voted Campaigner of the Year for raising awareness of Alzheimer's following his diagnosis with the condition.

Sporting his trademark black hat, Sir Terry said he was looking forward to being classed as an oldie.

He explained: "I was a grumpy young man as well. I'm quite happy to be an oldie.

"It seems to me that, looking around this country, there's a general feeling of being pissed off and I would like to be part of the bastion of that feeling.

"You just look around and it's all rubbish."

The 60-year-old added: "No-one thinks that 60 is old any more. At least, people approaching 60 don't think it's old.

"You can still look smug in a fawn windcheater in a Saga Holidays advert."

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable scooped the "I Told You So" Award for correctly predicting the credit crunch.

And novelist Diana Athill won the "Bed Next to the Door" award for her memoir, Somewhere Towards The End.

The event was hosted by veteran broadcaster Sir Terry Wogan, 70.

Sir Terry, who was also on this year's judging panel, outlined the key attributes needed to win an Oldie award.

He said: "You need to be a person of outstanding maturity, high intelligence and ever so slightly barmy.

"It's eccentricity that counts, as it probably should."

He singled out DJ Chris Moyles, presenters Richard and Judy and broadcaster Noel Edmonds as having the potential to go on and pick up the award when they got older.

As former presenter of the Eurovision Song Contest, Sir Terry said he would feel some regret this year after retiring from his position at the helm of the BBC's coverage of the show.

He added: "I'll regret it when I'm watching it, of course, but it was time to stop. You can't go on beating the gums and irritating people."