Sky steps in to fund BAFTA bash

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LONDON -- Organizers of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts breathed a big sigh of relief Friday when Sky Networks stepped into the breach to sponsor the Academy's annual film nominees party ahead of this year's Feb. 11 awards shindig.

Sky Networks' 11th-hour sponsorship move saved the event, which was scheduled to be canceled following the decision by the party's main sponsor -- U.K. fashion house Burberry -- to withdraw from sponsoring the event.

Said BAFTA chairman Hilary Bevan Jones: "We are delighted that Sky has saved the day and will ensure the nominees party takes place. We thank Burberry for their support to date and their pragmatism regarding their withdrawal. As a charity, we cannot fund an event on this scale without the generous support of sponsors and it is entirely fitting that Sky with its fantastic film offering can be our partner on this event."

Burberry withdrew amid pressure from such high-profile stars as Dame Judi Dench and Rhys Ilfans, who had said they would boycott the party due to Burberry's decision to shutter a Welsh factory site with 300-plus job losses in favor of relocating to a more "economically viable" factory in Asia. The threat of protestors outside the venue also was a real possibility.

The cancellation threat was reported as fact in the media here before news of Sky's deal filtered through.

Burberry's withdrawal is being regarded as a victory for those wishing to highlight the plight of factory workers in Wales.

Said Burberry chairman John Peace: "We are disappointed because we'd hoped to further support the British film industry, and to celebrate on an international stage British creativity in both film and fashion. As a British-based global luxury brand, with a history of actively supporting the British arts, most recently the Hockney exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, we are very disappointed at the attempts to disrupt this premier event for the British film industry in arguably one of its most successful years."

About 800 guests are expected to attend the party, which is scheduled for the evening of Feb. 10 at London's Natural History Museum.
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