Blood, sweat, tears, begging … but running our own local ‘Oscars’ is worth it all!

The start of a new year brings some major celebrations of the cultural world, with the Oscars and Baftas following hot on the heels of… The News Guide Awards in Portsmouth. Here entertainments editor Chris Broom details how the commitment we put in to our local scene and the respect and trust this engenders is worth the blood, sweat, tears, begging, pleading, bribing and cajoling

Every year, at the end of January, right in the thick of awards season, comes our own humble offering — The Guide Awards.

The actual gala night, which took place this year on Monday, January 27, is the end of about three months of blood, sweat, tears, begging, pleading, bribing and cajoling.

We have 13 categories which are voted for by our readers across music, stage, comedy, local film-making and visual arts. While I have a reasonable amount of knowledge about these areas simply through doing my job, I rely on numerous experts in those fields to help me compile the nominee lists.

Trying to get all of those people, who are essentially doing me a favour and for their own love of the arts, to do their bit by the launch date is the first big hurdle!

There is also the Special Achievement Award, which we pick, and fortunately there are usually several names in the mix.

Then there’s sponsors to keep happy, trophies to order, meetings with the venue, entertainment to arrange which will perform during the awards show, handling the delicate egos of certain involved parties, the show’s script to write (although the terrible jokes were all the compere’s own — I claim no responsibility for those…).

However, voting went better than ever this year — for the first time we did it solely online (we only had about half a dozen postal votes the year before) — and readers responded in their thousands.

Come awards night though, I am invariably a hair’s breadth from finding a quiet corner and adopting the foetal position.

But looking out behind the curtain before the show started and seeing the stalls packed out was a good feeling. We shifted north of 600 tickets, and I am pretty sure most of them turned up.

During the show I spend most of my time interviewing winners fresh from receiving their trophies, and it is wonderful to see how much it means to people.

“Lost for words” is a common refrain — some are close to tears, and some who I know are usually cynical old buggers are reduced to gibbering messes.

Once I’d filed my copy for the next morning’s paper, I sat there with at home with (big) glass of wine and watched the comments flying around on social media. Even those who hadn’t won were proud to have been nominated, and those who had, were over the moon, plus there were those who had simply gone to watch and support, and had enjoyed the show.

The good feeling the night engenders is invaluable.

Aside from the occasional blip, The Guide Awards have been running now for well over a decade, and our local arts community looks forward to it

They may not be a massive money spinner, but they are something people feel passionately about — we have a thriving music scene, our am-dram groups can fill our major theatres for a week-long run — and it shows that we, their local paper cares.

It shows we also have a stake in that community, and we reap the dividends throughout the year. I have been told that our coverage of local shows and gigs gives them a degree of validation that coverage elsewhere doesn’t necessarily bestow on them. People do still look to us as an authoritative voice.

But my god, I’m glad when the awards all wrapped up for another year…

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