The Awards Ceremony for the Medway Culture, Design & Tourism Awards 2015 took place last night, 22 October 2015, at Mid Kent College. There is a full list of winners below.
WOW’s editor, Emma Dewhurst, assesses the night
As an attendee and previous winner at the last Medway Culture & Design Awards in 2012 it was a great pleasure to be a cheerleader from the sidelines at last night’s awards ceremony and observe the shifts, changes and developments in the cultural/design and tourism landscape during the past three years.
The ceremony itself was a leaner affair but better for it: there were no strange people on stilts at the reception and no acts bussed in from God knows where to entertain a roomful of people with spadefuls more talent (2012’s lengthy gold sequinned electric violinists sequence still makes for ‘lively’ conversation).
There was also a shift in location, from the Corn Exchange, Rochester to Mid Kent College, with whom Medway Council had partnered to give MKC’s students an opportunity to be part of the running and catering of the event. It was heartening to see the students lined up in front of the stage being properly acknowledged by the audience at the end of the night.
This year’s lean approach to the awards also extended to the judges. In 2012 there were, believe it or not, ten judges (all male) and for 2015 that number had fallen to four, making, I imagine, for a considerably more manageable process. They were: Peter Colling (Tourism South East); Simon Cook (former chef and Michelin star restaurant owner, now Principal of Mid Kent College); Mark Little (Executive Dean, Faculty of Fashion, Architecture & Design at UCA) and Cllr Howard Doe (Deputy Leader of Medway Council).
Astonishingly, for the second time running, there were no women on the judging panel and, equally astonishingly, no practising artists of any discipline. #enoughsaid #notefornexttime.
But in the main, the consensus I picked up at the end of the night was that the judges had done a good job. Especially pleasing in the ‘Culture’ section was Wordsmithery’s win for Literature – a truly grassroots award. As was Laura King’s win in the Performing Arts category for her inclusive drama group, Looking Kloser – although one could have said much the same of the work of Play on Words Theatre, also shortlisted, for their many years’ excellent work with young people. And given that I am probably Aidan Dooley’s most devoted Medway fan, known to embarrass myself in his presence in public places, this award could quite easily have gone to him, for his unsurpassably brilliant performance as Antarctic explorer, Tom Crean.
Which raises an interesting point: would it be fairer to have two sections to some categories, one for individual achievement and one for projects/organisations? I don’t know. I’m simply posing the question. Certainly I would have liked to see Natasha Steer honoured for her sterling work in the community but she was shortlisted for her Creatabot project in the Media category, whose award went to the stellar, rising star tech company, Dovetail Games. How these two can be placed side by side and judged with integrity is a well nigh impossible task which I don’t envy.
Perhaps going forwards there could be an award for Exceptional Individual Contribution/Achievement in the Culture section? Certainly I can think of at least one exceptional individual achievement by an artist which was inexplicably left off the Visual Arts shortlist, which might have made it into such a category. At the very minimum there should be a bit of a category titles re-think.
My two most popular wins of the night were Sun Pier House for best Visitor Attraction, and lightship LV21 in the Heritage category. With each of these projects having been driven by two dynamic duos (Heather Burgess and Ed Gransden in the case of SPH, and Paivi Seppala and Gary Weston on board LV21), the power of the couple was also demonstrated in the new ‘Tourism’ part of the awards, with the joint winners in the Bed and Breakfast Accommodation category, Orchard Bed and Breakfast and Kits Coty Glamping.
And oh, the irony, to a theatre gal like me, of The Auditorium’s win for best New Build. I have nothing against the development, just the loss of the Theatre Royal in the making. Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, Gracie Fields and all the other greats who played in that most elegant structure no doubt had a restless night…
Overall my sense from the cheerleaders’ bench is that this strange, mighty, endlessly interesting place called Medway is, indeed, becoming more postively self-aware in its slow, sometimes awkward reinvention of itself. And that awareness is a turning from the mightiness of the industry that was here to the industries that are, now, rising to take its place: the creative, cultural industries – from the lone, over-industrious individuals working at grassroots level, to the larger, more established organisations working equally hard to bring Medway to the fore. All are to be applauded.
Fashion and Design
Open Spaces and Public Realm
Hotel of the Year
Bed and Breakfast Accommodation
Outstanding Customer Care
Colin Adcock, Explore Medway Open Top Bus
Flavour of the Year
Best giggle of the night:
That moment when one of the representatives of the lovely Bridgewood Manor Hotel, told host Ryan Philpott that the hotel’s success was due to the ‘hard work and medication of its staff…’
Favourite shortlist nomination:
The Parking Enforcement Team for Outstanding Customer Care.
Best Acceptance Speech:
Matthew Kearsey-Lawson (Kent Fine Foods), who, in his own words, hadn’t shaved, hadn’t put on a tie and had doused himself in aftershave to cover the smell of vinegar. #cookingtilthelastmoment