Swapping shoes for slippers - a Doncaster Business Awards ceremony with a difference

Heading into a venue for a plush awards ceremony brings lots of familiar tropes.

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 8:00 pm
Welcome to Yorkshire CEO James Mason speaks with a presenter over Zoom at the Doncaster Business Awards

A cocktail bar in one corner, live music in another. Dozens of tables filled with people dressed to the dines, the promise of a fancy steak dinner. And a stage with a charismatic host ready to welcome the evening’s winners.

All that was present for the Doncaster Chamber’s business awards on Friday night, except for one major difference.

The venue was a virtual one.

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The tables at the Doncaster Business Awards - done virtually

The food, the cocktails, the outfits and the performers all remained, but were enjoyed sat at desks or dining room tables - fitting for the occasion given much of the country’s business in the last 12 months has been carried out from behind laptop screens.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has put paid to so many ceremonies since last March, the Chamber approached their annual awards with a ‘show must go on attitude.’

And what a show it was.

A night of celebration of those businesses who have survived and thrived against the odds while also acknowledging the remarkable contribution of individuals and departments within the NHS and care sectors with a series of special awards.

The venue map of the virtual Doncaster Chamber Business Awards

It was somewhat strange to pull on a suit, shirt and tie just to walk over to a tiny desk in a corner of a landing that doubles up as an office.

Doing so with a three course meal that had been delivered the previous day and warmed up in time for the ceremony made it all the more surreal.

At the time of logging into the online portal expectations were non-existent. Details on exactly how the evening would work had been scarce.

If anything however, that made the experience all the more impressive.

On the screen appeared that familiar scene one would get as they entered the lobby of a hotel or conference suite - albeit this one was in animated form.

The virtual room had been split in sections the attendee could drop in and out of as they wished.

A group of local singers and performers were set up in one corner, with a click on each of them taking you through to live sets that had been recorded at some of the town’s most fancy venues. The quality of the performances proved to be a fine accompaniment to an excellent meal.

Moving away from the performance area, you were able to drop into the bar to watch how your cocktail, an espresso martini, had been expertly made by takeaway service Glug, based out of the Blind Librarian in Bawtry.

This was not however an evening to be enjoyed alone. What would a business do be without the opportunity for networking.

And so a click on the ‘mix and mingle’ section took you through to several areas where you were able to interact with your fellow guests.

Though everyone was assigned a table, you were able to drop in on any as long as there was a free seat.

Pulling up a chair took you into a separate area and brought up a video conferencing window that allowed you to converse with those also sitting at the table.

And whatever table you dropped onto brought plenty of evidence that all attendees were getting in the spirit of the occasion, dressed in their finery weather at home or in an office.

There was chat about just exactly where to place the bourbon biscuit that had arrived with the cocktail, or weather to rinse out the martini glass in which the starter had been served and use that as a glass for said drink.

But there was also a real chance for individuals across the range of Doncaster businesses, big and small, to connect with peers in a manner in which they have been unable to for the past 12 months.

It brought a feeling of celebration even before the awards began and showed why the Chamber was right to press on regardless.

The ceremony itself, hosted by Welcome to Yorkshire CEO James Mason, zipped through at an excellent pace.

Accessed by a link to the ‘stage’ viewers were taken into an incredible studio set, packed with plenty of screens on which presenters and nominees were brought up.

A series of wonderful stories were told, tributes paid and achievements rightly recognised from the most difficult of years.

And then it was back to the ‘meet and mingle’ area for some post-awards chatter.

The evening was a tremendous success and a real credit to all those who brought it together so seamlessly.

And being able to wear slippers instead of dress shoes was not too bad either.

WINNERS:

Success Through Innovation and Diversification: Navy Professional Ltd

Excellence in People Development: Concorde BGW Group

Excellence in Customer Service: Murray, Morrison & Knowles

Business Start Up of the Year: HD Forwarding Limited

Apprentice of the Year: Owen Cooper of St Leger Homes

Young Business Person of the Year: Tom Miller of Fellowes

Business Engaging With Education: Active Fusion

Green Business of the Year: VolkerRail

Marketing Campaign of the Year: Fellowes

SME Business of the Year: ORB Recruitment Ltd

Success Through Partnerships: Cast

Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility: Keepmoat Homes

Third Sector Organisation of the Year: darts (Doncaster Community Arts)

Large Business of the Year: Concorde BGW Group

NHS Compassionate Care Award: Dr Ken Agwuh

NHS Unsung Hero Award: Adam Tingle

NHS Outstanding Contribution: Team Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals

NHS Community Hero: Planned Unplanned Community Nursing Team - RDaSH

Business Hero Award: Lauren Cuttell of Club Doncaster

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In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.