The Award Ceremony season is upon us yet again, and what a timely reminder how formulaic and similar things can become.
Attend any one of these events and more often than not you will be greeted by hundreds of men wearing almost identical “black tie” dinner suits. Granted lapels can alter, satin highlights can be in or out, and I do my best to rebel slightly, by wearing a pink or multi-coloured tie instead of the traditional black. But in general, you’re greeted by a pretty homogenous bunch. So much for individuality and creative thinking.
The ladies on the other hand are not constrained with the formal dress uniform and have to be creative in what they wear – and in a male dominated industry they do bring a much needed splash of colour. Which is great, they will tell you, if you have the time and the budget to do so. No lady, it seems, wants to be seen in the same outfit twice. It’s just not acceptable. Or, worse still, in the same outfit as another guest – which happened to one of my close colleagues once and she’s never been allowed to forget it. So while it’s easy for men to fall back on their black tie uniforms, women constantly have to update.
From a company perspective, these award ceremonies always follow a familiar pattern. We all arrive really early, at one of the few London venues equipped to deal with such vast numbers of people, and seek out our guests. We keep our fingers crossed that there won’t be any no-shows, because it has taken us time to fill the tables with a good cross section of people as it is. Sipping champagne, we listen to and totally ignore the repeated announcements that the awards are about to start. Then eventually allow ourselves to herded to our tables by exasperated ushers.
Before dinner we sit through “Part One” of the awards. A celebrity, politician or sportsman, who will get a good initial reception as they tell a few jokes and warm up the audience, will host this. Then as the awards themselves start, quiet conversations start amongst some of the many hundreds of guests, and gradually increase until all but the most talented of hosts can be heard above the din and are authoritative enough to demand a degree of silence. Those up for awards will wait tensely to see if they have triumphed, their guests and colleagues will cheer, and everyone else carries on talking and drinking.
Then comes the dinner. Although served on fine china plates, much of this mass produced food could not taste any worse served in a foil container in Economy at thirty-nine thousand feet (can you tell I’m not impressed?). Having survived the meal, as we all sip our brandies and ports, “Part Two” of the awards inevitably kicks off. By this time our raconteur host will be fighting a losing battle against the loud conversations of people who have been drinking for hours. What most people really want to do is either bring the Tribute Band on and hit the dance floor, retire to the bar for more hugely over-priced drinks, or lose their pretend £100 on the Casino Roulette Tables. Finally when “Carriages” arrive at 2am – we all stagger for the exits for our black cab, mini-cab or – on one occasion – bicycle rickshaw home!