As regular readers will know, Matt and Cat’s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide was a finalist in the prestigious Hantweb Awards 2010.
The competition, in its seventh year, received a record number of nominations, almost 1400 in twelve categories. As well as some excellent nominated websites, the competition also attracted some impressive sponsorship meaning that the winners of each category went home with a Dell laptop… plus a big slice of glory pie!
The nominated websites were whittled down to a shortlist, then a list of finalists. M&C’s site was lucky to survive this stringent filtering process, particularly as their category – ‘Special Interest Website’ – attracted the most nominations, over 200 sites. Also, the 2010 competition had a new category which wasn’t in the hands of the judges: the award for the best public voted finalist. This meant that Matt and Cat’s followers could make their voices heard through the on-line voting process.
With the voting closed and the event imminent, Matt and Cat made their way to the venue, a curiously-sited science park, built in the middle of some of Hampshire’s finest countryside next to an equally incongruous development of mobile homes. M and C were kindly chauffeured to the event by Matt’s parents who were pleased to have a day out away from their busy pensioner lifestyles of bowls, village gossip and pushing around the pieces of a fiddly jigsaw puzzle.
On arrival all finalists had to sign in and, during this brief process, Matt and Cat were expressly told to hold the trophy at an angle to avoid glare from the photographer’s flash. Was this a hint of their soon-to-be-announced success? Over-analysing this small remark, they went off to do some schmoozing with their fellow Isle of Wight finalists: the team from iwight.com and Jackie and Rachel from the Real Island Food Company. They all wished each other luck as they enjoyed complimentary orange juice and Danish pastries. In 2007 when Matt and Cat were finalists of the Hantsweb Awards for another website, there was free alcohol. Perhaps, like all local authorities, Hampshire County Council has undergone a bit of financial belt-tightening.
The awards ceremony itself was held in Intech’s planetarium. The olds fell into its horizontal seats with the confidence of those used to taking their turn in the familiar embrace of a brocade-covered recliner. M and C took the aisle seats in preparation for their moment in the spotlight. The programme was well-organised, with the prize-giving interspersed with speeches from the great and the good; municipal wallahs, previous prize-winners and the all-important sponsors, without whom, etc.
But first, as they were in the planetarium, there was a short animated film set to the classic Elton John ballad ‘Rocket Man’. The swirling 360° images made Cat a bit queasy but the space-themed film was certainly very cleverly executed. The awards ceremony proper then commenced, professionally wrangled by compère Steve Power with equal degrees of deference to the civic worthies and sponsors but also with an injection of levity where appropriate. M and C’s was the penultimate category and they gamely applauded the succession of winners and plucky runners-up.
By now, Matt and Cat’s Facebook and Twitter followers will know the outcome of the special interest website category. However, to build up the dramatic tension, this is what happened. The three finalists from the category were summoned to the stage by Mr Power and had to sit with a mixture of trepidation and overconfidence as their websites were summarised for the audience. The other two finalists were the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and a couple of chaps from Fishing Fools. Matt and Cat’s site got a big laugh as Steve loved their idea of eating out as a hobby! And then, with the words “the winners are Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust” barely escaped from his lips it was all over for M and C and the Fishing Fools. The runners-up all shook hands in their collective defeat and, pausing to collect their certificates, £20 of M&S vouchers and to have their photos taken, it was back to their seats.
Cat tried to cheer Matt up with the fact that the public vote award was yet to come. However, the anticipation was short-lived as that final presentation was won by the undoubtedly popular University of Portsmouth Students Union. Disgorged from the planetarium, Matt and Cat took their goody bags to the café for the free buffet lunch.
The event was over, and although they hadn’t lifted the trophy this time M & C were still hugely excited to have been there. What a treat – and who would have thought a conversation in Sainsbury’s cafeé could have led to such heights of success? Thanks are due to Hampshire County Council for the awards, and for including their overseas neighbours!
Even in their defeat Matt and Cat were unable to resist the lure of the food review, and fellow finalists looked on in amusement as M&C rushed to take pics of the spread before the hordes descended. In 2007 they had been treated to a very grand buffet (see bottom pic) and this time it was a more austere lunch of samosas, spring rolls and sarnies. Not quite the caviare and salmon canapés of 2007 but as they say, lunch is for losers.
Hantsweb Awards 2010