We are incredibly proud to announce that BrixFest 2015 was nominated, shortlisted for and subsequently won the 'Tourism Event of the Year' Award at this year's Herald Express Hospitality & Tourism Awards!
Having received Silver in the same category in 2014, the committee were absolutely set on re-applying and (hopefully) going for gold, and it's such fantastic news that we achieved our aim. Up against really, really tough competition, like the world famous 'La Solitaire du Figaro' (the Torquay stop-over), Lemonfest, Torbay Motor Show, our mates over at Fishstock Brixham and last year's winners, The Contemporary Craft Festival, all worthy competitors - we were far from convinced we'd be walking away with our award, but it's testament to the hard work of all the volunteers and members of the BrixFest community that we have done.
It all started with an email, confirming we'd been shortlisted for the award category. From there, we gathered together an amazing group of people for our table of 11. There was myself (Harry Bower, the 2015 Chair), Sophie Bower (2016 Chair), Kate Oakden (Secretary 2016), James Twigger (2015-16 Treasurer), Martin Brooke and Steve Guttridge (New members of the committee), Johnny & Linda (From our Headline Sponsors, Brixham Cottages, who also walked away with a silver award), Steve Bulman (WBW Solicitors, our Live Music Sponsors), plus Anton & James Bower - there for moral support. Let's just say a number of us were excited to get suited and booted again!
The event itself was to be held in at Torre Abbey, both inside The Spanish Barn and in an events marquee on the lawn. Despite some early scepticism (mainly due to the weather!), both settings were warm, welcoming and decorated to an extremely high standard. The Herald Express Team once again have outdone themselves when it comes to their hospitality (excuse the pun).
As the welcome by Jim Parker commenced, we were reminded of The Herald Express's 90 years in print. An incredible and emotional journey through time ended in a huge round of applause, and the commencement of dinner. Torre Abbey and their team shone here, the food was delicious, and everyone commented on the effectiveness of the staffing team and the brilliant wine that was on offer.
The Awards themselves began at 9:45pm - and a quick look through the programme confirmed that our category was the last in the list - something that was unnerving but helped to build suspense and anticipation. Notable winners of other awards include Paignton Zoo for Marketing, Pennywell Farm for Sustainability and serial-award-winners, The Elephant Restaurant.
A blog report by 2015 chair, Harry Bower
The nominees for our award were read out and there was a definite feeling of unpredictability (or maybe that was the wine...). I actually felt myself holding my breath as 'The winner is...' echoed through the speaker system.
Fast forward ten seconds and every chair around our table has flipped over, the committee are hugging each other and the roar of applause from the rest of the audience is deafening. We'd won! Kate & I were the first to the stage, where we received our golden frame and certificate and a bottle of champagne - before posing rather ungraciously for a picture.
Jim Parker then collared me and reminded me of the obligatory winner's acceptance speech. Oscar winners are always claiming they never prepared anything, a line I've always thought to be untrue. However, I now know how they feel.
Fortunately, I've always been good at blagging, and after bigging myself up for wearing a suit (I believe the exact words were, 'I look fly tonight'), I proceeded to thank the committee, the sponsors, but most of all - the people who both visit and support BrixFest in ways beyond the imagination: the people of Brixham.
It is then, with a smile on our faces and a few empty wine bottles in the recycling, that we can sit back for five minutes and admire the hard work put in by everyone to be recognised and awarded with such an amazing and important accolade. Then the real work begins...making 2016 bigger and better than ever!
In a real mix of emotions - I've stepped down as chair of the festival to enable my studies to begin at The University of Surrey (in Events Management). Sophie Bower will continue my work and the work of chair-people before me to lead the festival forward and explore new ideas and opportunities, alongside our trusted and invaluable committee members. I'll still be involved, though: and look forward to being a part of something truly special for many years to come.
Signing off for what's probably the last time in this capacity -
2015 Chair of BrixFest