In the annals of accountancy folk lore, 9 November 1994 will forever be an historic day, not that you would easily find a reference to it on-line…
For that evening in 1994 was the very first Accountancy Age Awards, now operated as a separate venture by the looks of it and/or rebranded as the British Accountancy Awards.
And I was there.
Not just there, I was an honoured guest. For I had been one of the judges on one of the panels for that very first year of the Accountancy Awards. I had been on the judging panel for accounting systems, no less. Selected for the role while I still worked for Binder Hamlyn, although I had left to form Z/Yen in the meantime. Accountancy Age were told about the move but didn’t mind. Nor did Binders.
According to my 1994 diary, I spent the afternoon of 13 September 1994 at the Accountancy Age offices. During those few hours, I and the rest of the panel “examined” several systems, to decide which were worthy of awards. You can imagine just how methodical and scientific that judging process must have been.
It was my first experience on an awards judging panel and I learnt a lot that afternoon to stand me in good stead since, whenever I have subsequently sat on (or in some cases chaired) such panels… mostly I learnt how NOT to judge awards from the Accountancy Awards experience.
But on awards night itself the judging was all behind me. My hard work was done. My black tie outfit was donned. I think I might have still been hiring black tie gear back then. It looks from my diary as though I worked from home that day, thus avoiding the worst excesses of “black tie day misery”: lugging clobber around all day, knowing you’ll have to change into that tux in some smelly bog, early evening. Or, in many ways worse, wandering around town all day in black tie, explaining to each client in the morning and afternoon meetings that you are so darned busy with back-to-back meetings that you are already dressed for a pompous evening do.
I have two lingering but fitful memories from the evening. The first relates to Bob Monkhouse, who hosted the show. I remember discovering that Debbie Barham was writing gags for Bob Monkhouse when he did this kind of gig, by mentioning this event to Debbie at a NewsRevue writers meeting. Debbie was a young, supremely talented comedy writer, whose subsequent tragic story was posthumously written by her dad in this book – click here.
I cannot remember whether Debbie and I had that conversation about Bob before or after the event itself. I do remember that, once we’d had that conversation, I’d get occasional e-mails from Debbie (she, like me, was a relatively early e-mail adopter) asking me for background information, buzz phrases or just something for her to latch onto when she was writing patter for similar commercial events, usually for Monkhouse or another serial awards offender, such as Ned Sherrin or Rory Bremner. Little did I know at that time how obsessive Debbie’s work habits would become and how tragically her situation would end.
But on the Accountancy Awards evening itself, I recall finding Bob Monkhouse’s jokes rather predictable but very professionally served. As was the food.
My second memory relates to George Littlejohn. By good chance, I was placed next to George. He was also an honoured guest, in his case in the capacity of a former editor of Accountancy Age magazine. George had subsequently moved on to bigger and better things; yes that really is possible.
George is a most interesting chap with a very good sense of humour. The latter came in especially handy that evening. There is always something incongruous/pompous about awards ceremonies done “Oscars-style” for matters less glamorous and more mundane than the Oscars. Accountancy Awards, for example, are, in my opinion, just a tad less glamorous and a smidgen more mundane than Oscars.
Perhaps George Littlejohn remembers the evening differently; if so, I hope he chimes in with a comment or three. We’ve kept in touch all these years, our business interests overlapping occasionally, but in any case we always enjoy meeting up. I occasionally run into George at cultural events, as indeed I did on New Years Day 2017 at the Curzon Bloomsbury – click here – which triggered me to write up this 1994 event now.
I particularly recall the last award, Accountant of the Year, being delivered with extreme fanfare, won by a big-haired young woman. Her excellence as an accountant I couldn’t possibly question, but it seemed (to us at least) that she had primarily been chosen for the award because she would utterly look the part in the press photos. In any event, she rapidly got busy, kissing Bob Monkhouse spontaneously, looking elatedly happy and supremely excited about it all. Meanwhile, the flash guns went on firing and the thumping music went on blaring. George and I couldn’t stop giggling for quite some while.
Still, the event must have been a great success – it is still being held every year, at the same venue I believe – for sure it was again at The Brewery, Chiswell Street in 2016. The event even has its own website and strap line – click here.
Although I have no pictures to show you of the event from 1994, the good news is, Accountancy Age have put up an album of pictures from the 2016 event. I have to tell you that, apart from the absence of me, George Littlejohn and of course the late Bob Monkhouse, the photo album looks just how the event looked in 1994 – it’s an uncannily similar look – click here.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that there is no record on-line from the 1994 event; who needs it? As another great George, Santayana in this case, succinctly put it:
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.