Farmers certainly know how to party.
It was a bit like the old Smithfield days. The countryside came to town on Thursday night (8 October) for the FW Awards, a glitzy bash in London’s Grosvenor House Hotel.
More than 1000 people donned dickie bows and ball dresses and watched the 45 finalists vie for the top spots.
They ate well, drank a little (in some cases a little too much), laughed lots and danced enthusiastically (if, at times, badly).
Farmers from across Britain took the chance to meet up with old friends, make new acquaintances, network, and rub shoulders with the great and the good of the industry.
DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn presented the “gold trophy” for the overall winner – well done, Nick Padwick – and even though the Minister joked self-deprecatingly about how he wished his approval ratings were as high as farmers’, the highlight of the evening for many was another Benn, the Radio 4 comic Mitch Benn.
Having wowed at the 2007 Awards (he sang a particularly rude song about James Blunt then, if I remember rightly) he was back by popular demand.
His comic songs touched on such contemporary topics as the demise of Woolworths – “Where,” he sung, “will all the chavs go now to do their shoplifting?” and the “financial institutions offering no solutions”.
He even managed to work the word “agriculture” into a song (OK, rhyming it with “I’m sure” was a bit lame, but you try coming up with something better!)
|Tim Relf: Farmers certainly know how to party.|
To mark this momentous landmark, guests enjoyed a specially commissioned cheese to round off their meal, Yellow Peril, made by Charles Martell (the man behind the world famous Stinking Bishop cheese).
The cheese got a universal thumbs-up – someone on the table next to me wrapped what was left up to take home – and proved a great way to round off the meal of cured salmon, mustard-crusted breast of duck and lime crème bruleé.
Some, of course, worked off their food by braving the bucking bronco; others, perhaps inspired by Britain’s Got Talent dance act Signature, took to the dance floor.
This was, of course, after the presentations – hosted by someone introduced as “a woman who knows some incredibly dirty jokes and can probably drink you all under the table”. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: the perfect woman for most farmers
It turned out to be Julia Bradbury – she of Wainwright Walks and Countryfile fame. She coined the acronym FWAGs (Farmers Wives and Girlfriends).
I loved the banter between her and the man doing the voice-over, Alan Dedicoat, whose known to many as Deadly from Terry Wogan’s radio show and as the National Lottery’s Voice of the Balls.
“I know you’ll never refuse a rollover,” Deadly joked to Julia (more than one man in the audience noticed she didn’t deny this!).
She spoke of the “passion and commitment” of farmers. And it’s true: it sometimes takes an evening like this to remind us all about the unique spirit of agriculture.
For me, the strapline for the video we all watched on the big screen said it all – Three generations, one passion.
The short film was simple, to the point and very touching, featuring all-round good egg Henry Plumb, NFU president Peter Kendall and YFC council chairman Bryce McKellar. They explained, simply, why farming is special.
This morning, it’s back to normality. Back to overalls, back to wellies, back to desks. See you next year.