The BHBiz Awards Night was nearly upon us as the organisers met up at the Amex Stadium at 3pm on Friday afternoon. We assumed we would easily be able to complete the setting up process and have time to spare before the Drinks Reception at 6.15. Paul Shearing parked the car at the foot of the West Stand entrance and almost before we were even out of the car we had been warned by security that we couldn’t leave the car there. We unloaded and came back to a second warning before shifting the car and making use of the lift to get the equipment upstairs.
Clare Clayton of Rosanne florists was also unloading the flowers, so we gave her a hand before getting started on deciding where to put the 25 pop up stands we had collected. Luckily Susan arrived soon after and helped us decide. The MC Dave Farmer had arrived and was looking to help where possible. We set about erecting the banners and positioning them strategically each side of the stage. Emily took a break and grabbed something to eat before Paul Noble turned up and needed some table adjustment to give him room to video effectively. Meanwhile Pete the technical lights, sound and vision guy was doing what such guys do, getting on with the important stuff without fuss.
By 5pm one or two of the Sodexo catering staff were beginning to arrive before their evening briefing, and the room was abuzz with activity and preparations. We set out various envelopes on tables and made sure everyone had a programme of events. The room was looking increasingly glamorous. Clare had nearly finsihed setting thirty tables of flowers single handedly, and all in orange and gold BHBPA colours. It looked stunning.
There was little more for Paul, Dave and me to do by 5.30 so we retired to an executive box to change into our glad rags. It was a moment I had been dreading as I had even purchased a new suit for the occasion. For me there is nothing quite as bad as getting dressed up in formal clothes, but it didn’t feel too bad when I had sorted out the tie length. On returning to the Mayo Wynne Baxter Lounge it was noticeable that kick off was approaching. There were lots of staff around, the event director seemed to be getting anxious and someone mentioned that the first arrival was downstairs.
We noticed that the bar had opened and decided it was for the best to calm the nerves by having a drink. Susan was horrified, but Dave, Paul and I had one anyway. Before I could finish mine Esther dashed in and ordered me downstairs to help cope with the checking in process with Emily while she had an emergency concerning Twitter. People were arriving for the gala evening.
When they arrived people were directed up to the Overline Suite for the drinks reception. It was a wonderful sight, a crowd of business people from Burgess Hill getting ready for the main show at the top venue in Brighton. Fifty bottles of sparkling Ridgeview later, we were asked to go downstairs to dine. Paul and I were introduced and cobbled together a welcoming speech. We were supposed to have a complete run through with Susan at 6pm but it didn’t happen. The audience seemed well set for a great evening!
Dave, the MC for the night, gave out various announcements and then set about one or two businesses with funny tales. He also gave the speaker, Tony Cottey, some stick before introducing him once the main course had finished. The meal was good, but I had too much on my mind to fully enjoy it. Tony spoke for about twenty minutes, mostly about cricket and being Welsh. He has a mine of humorous stories to relate about both. Of course he was a very successful professional cricketer and played with a number of famous players including Viv Richards. After his speech he introduced the Awards Presentation by asking up the sponsor of each category.
It was heartening to see how much the crowd got involved with each award, cheering and clapping with gusto the winners as they took to the stage and then again as they carried off their trophy. It was a joy to see people we’d never heard about winning trophies and being feted by their company colleagues. The last award was a Lifetime Achievement Award which went to Brian Lewis, who started in a factory on the Victoria Industrial Estate in 1957, and still works full time despite being in his 80s.
Once the awards were finished, the disco soon followed and by 11pm it was hotting up on the dance floor. Unfortunately for those who find dancing difficult, unpleasant, unnatural or just plain ridiculous the decibel level in the room was a little too high and conversation was difficult. The numbers dancing increased and the range and variety of music was excellent. There were a few for whom the early drinks had taken their toll but mostly the crowd was perfectly controlled and full of fun. As the evening came to an end at midnight the taxis arrived and people disappeared without fuss. As they went it was clear that it had been a successful event by the number of compliments. After a long wait in the outside wind tunnel our taxi arrived and I got home at 1.30.
At 10am on Saturday morning I met up with Paul in the Amex car park to do some clearing up. We picked up some banners and other equipment left behind and an hour later were in a queue of traffic heading over the Downs towards the Marina. By 12 noon we were ordering a full English breakfast in Wetherspoons, and very good it was, too. As we analysed and assessed the event from the perspective of the next day I felt assured that, for all the work that so many had put in to this event, it was well worth it. We had brought the Burgess Hill business community to the top venue in Brighton and they had shown their usual community support and spirit to produce a magnificent atmosphere at the home of the new Premier League club. Well done to the sponsors and all who contributed. Thanks again for your support of the BHBPA.