A night at the awards - by Claire Darby

On Thursday 17 March 2022, Hatice, Donald, Emma and I all attended the Kingston Borough Business Awards.  It was titled the 2021 awards as it was cancelled from last year, like many things, due to Covid.  The night was held at the All Saints Church in central Kingston, which is a beautiful Grade I listed building and a truly stunning location for the awards. 

When we were told of the awards back in 2021, we were asked, as Patron members of the Chamber, to sponsor an award.  We jumped at the chance and were immediately drawn to the contribution to the community award.  During the last two years, community spirit has never been as strong as we all endured something which affected absolutely every person in the country, and beyond.  From clapping for the NHS on a Thursday night to people volunteering to offer the incredible vaccination drive, the contributions to the community have been incredible.  We anticipated that the award would highlight the unbelievable work that businesses were doing to come together to aid the wider community.  We were totally right.  

I was personally very honored when Forbes Low asked if I would like to be part of the judging panel for the awards.  I was given our own category to judge, the contribution to the community award, plus the excellence in customer services.  Having never done anything like it before, I had no idea what to expect or how many entrants there may be. When Forbes and Amanda (McLoughlin) first emailed me to say that they had received an overwhelming number of entrants, I knew my job wasn’t going to be easy. 

The sheer quality of entrants was so high and it was incredibly difficult to single any entrants out in particular.  The excellence in customer service category showed how businesses understood how important treating customers with a personalised service was, especially during difficult times.  It also showed how businesses had adapted during the pandemic to provide their customers with their services in new and innovative ways, whilst ensuring the same level of quality. 

The contribution to the community showed the amazing work that businesses had been doing to help the people of Kingston – from supporting NHS workers with care packages, getting the homeless community into hotels, to ensuring the elderly were connected digitally while face to face contact was limited.   I was quite emotional reading some of the entrants as the care and love that people had  given really shone through in their words.  It really did highlight the best of people and I was grateful to be part of such an amazing community. 

I was only one of many who made up the judging panel and it was a great day to meet the other Judges at Warren House to discuss some of the other categories and entrants and finalise the winners and runners up.  Then on Thursday we got to see what all the backstage work had been for and enjoy a night to celebrate the great achievements of the finalists and the runners up.  The food from Nikki’s kitchen in the form of bento boxes was novel and exciting and the buzz of what was the first event of its kind that I had attended for over two years did not disappoint.  It was great to see people I knew in person again and to meet new people from local businesses that I was not aware of.  Overall a great success and a big thanks to Forbes, Amanda and the team for putting on such a wonderful night