I think I was the least military looking award recipient of the night as I had to ‘hot foot’ it over from the National Theatre (name drop intended) after a performance in a play where I was playing the part of a legless Ukrainian Jew circa 1901, think Fiddler on the roof, although I was obviously not in costume, you’ve got some idea of my appearance.
After a champagne reception, on the lawns in front of the impressive Waldorf Astoria at Syon Park, Brendan West recipient of the Welfare Award – Volunteer of the Year and me were ushered to our allocated table. Our table host for the evening was none other than the irrepressible Peter Stringfellow and his wife Bella who were the perfect hosts throughout the evening ensuring that everyone was happy and comfortable and topped up with a tipple.
The comperes, Gloria Hunniford and Mike Read, guest speakers and award presenters were all marvellous. All made speeches that enabled the gathered audience to fully understand the importance and relevance of the Soldiering On Awards some with a humour and poignancy that left a lump in the throat and a few damp eyes. The result was that the audience were left in no doubt about the authenticity of not only the award recipients but the national recognition owed to the wider Armed Forces community.
The actor Anthony Andrews gave a particularly moving and truthful speech with which the entire audience applauded in agreement as he highlighted the role of the televisual media and hinting at the lack of coverage at the awards. The entertainment was second to none with the group Escala playing a couple of sets, both they and the music was stunning, if you’ve seen them I need not say anymore… if you have not then you need to…badly
For me, one of the many highlights of the evening was the introductions and short films that preceded the individual awards. They had been produced to give the audience, which was littered with celebrities, politicians and representatives of the many sponsors of the Awards
An insight into the achievements, endeavours, struggles and hurdles surmounted by the nominees, encapsulating the awards and everything they stand for.
Since being given the Bowman Award I have been surprised and delighted at how many people were and are aware of the awards and what they stand for. I am still regularly approached by people congratulating me and offering their support and help with events and activities involving the wounded, injured and sick serving and ex-serving members of the British Armed Forces.