2006 Farmers Weekly Agricultural Awards – a bystander’s view
Attempting to cross the six lanes of London’s Park Lane, spotted large herd of black and whites heading into the swanky Grosvenor House Hotel. No it wasn’t a big bunch of badly navigated Friesians, but the penguin-suited guests at the Farmers Weekly Agricultural Awards.
Into the foyer to do a bit of serious celebrity-spotting. Sir Don Curry, Peter Kendall, Oliver Walston, Tony Pexton, Baroness Young, David Richardson – anyone who’s anyone in farming is there. Tempted to ask for a few autographs, but seemed a bit inappropriate.
Champagne has been flowing copiously for a while now and the 500 guests seem to be warming up well. Farmers not noted for being soft-spoken or weak-voiced so volume reaching 8.5 on the conversational Richter scale.
Increasingly desperate-sounding calls on the Tannoy for everyone to sit down at their tables finally bear fruit. FW editor gives rousing introductory speech. Dinner was a Saint Maure goats-cheese flan, then grilled venison, then Drambuie parfait – all British (of course). Good grub, especially when you consider the logistics of getting out 500 plates of food in the space of about 10 minutes. Some FW staff, it was noted, snaffled two lots of venison.
Sean Meo, the warm-up act, arrives on stage. He’s very funny, but felt a bit sorry for the three people in the front row (Denis, Christine, Michelle – you know who you are) who he kept picking on. In a generally friendly manner, of course.
Star presenter is Fiona Bruce (BBC 10pm news presenter – where have you been?). Seems rather serious on TV, like she wants to give you a good telling off, but v friendly in real life. Looked like someone you could tell a boring story to about your trip to the supermarket and she’d still be genuinely interested. She’s tall (5ft 10in, we’re reliably told), Hello-magazine slim and really did seem very interested in (and sympathetic to) farming.
* Fashion note No 1. Fiona Bruce’s translucent skirt did prompt one female FW staffer (in a totally non-catty way, of course) to wonder if she’d run out of petticoat material. Us chaps in the front few rows thought it was great.
Halfway through the awards and there’s been a lot of loud music, clapping, whooping and kissing of news presenters.
The fact that several of the category winners have come up on stage wearing kilts shows how pre-eminent the Scots are throughout UK farming. In fact a good 20% of the finalists seem to come from the relatively small county of Roxburghshire. Must be something in the water.
* Fashion note no 2: The winner of the Arable category and Farmer of the Year, was sporting a sporran of truly impressive proportions. Sporrans are traditionally used for keeping money in, so not sure if this was to accommodate 2006’s better wheat returns or for eventual arrival of single farm payment.
Whooping and cheering reaches crescendo with Herts farmer and heart-throb (after his appearance on FW front cover) Ian Pigott being named as Farming Champion of the Year. At 1.30am everyone disperses to beds, taxis and local police cells (oh alright, made that last one up). Your humble blogger, meanwhile, slinks off to the Park Lane underground car park. But that’s another story…