Last night we went to the Park Plaza Riverside where 500 men in black ties and women in sequins rocked up for the South London Business Awards. It was a novel experience for us creative types.  The scaffolders and vehicle-leasing men of Lambeth and Croydon were, of course, much better behaved than actors and telly-types when the Cab Sav started to flow. In fact, it was all pretty decorous with earnest speeches about youth opportunities and that ubiquitous euphemism ‘challenges’.

We had a three course ‘Gala’ dinner (there were five types of bread rolls, turnip batons in the carrot julienne and a raspberry on the chocolate tart – a snip at £90 a head). Paul Ross, Jonathan’s shorter, less famous brother, told blokey jokes with condom punch lines and middle-aged men in suits handed other men in suits engraved glass things to put on their mantelpieces.

Chalk the Sun was up for Best New Business though at our interview the elderly judge had made it quite clear that he didn’t see how creative writing could be a business (tell J.K. Rowling), “You ladies could get a grant and teach unemployed youths how to write CVs,” he’d said helpfully as we wittered on about BAFTAS, TV rights and other lady topics.  Needless to say our category winner was something to do with construction apprenticeships, a real business.

Breeze Yoga, Mr. Organic and a woman who sells luxury lingerie intriguingly called Fred & Ginger bemused the business world too judging  by the faint-hearted response from those assembled in the banqueting hall when their names were called.  Valet Male Grooming  of Croydon (or Back, Sack and Crack as I like to call them) seemed to be shortlisted in every category but couldn’t, I suspect, surmount deep-seated psychological barriers in order to win.  Theo the Magician from Sutton didn’t get a look-in despite doing card tricks all night.  I think Paul Strank, of the mighty Merton roofing dynasty, also went home empty-handed, though by Best Independent Retailer I was loosing the will to live and, with all that Cab Sav, the ability to retain any nugget of information for more than a millisecond.

    We commiserated with the jolly hotel girls from Jury’s Inn (Best Green Biz), rallied a little when Carol, the lovely founder of  Wimbledon Village Riding Stables, won Best Biz for Hospitality and Leisure but over-all the event had a strangely enervating effect. I found my thoughts drifting back to the early eighties when Jo was organising Motorcycle magazine’s Man of the Year award at the Lyceum Ballroom and employed me to smirk and hold envelopes on the stage. Unfortunately, the combination of sub-zero temperatures and a backless dress wreaked havoc with my nasal passages and I did a big wet sneeze right over the late Barry Sheene.  I spent the rest of the night transfixed horribly by the glistening strand of snot clinging to our hero’s mohair jumper (suits weren’t compulsory for sports stars).  The glamour of award ceremonies has obviously not faded for me in the intervening decades.  Roll on 2013…

 Ardella Jones
South London Business Awards