Howard Croft column: A night of pride as big awards roll on

The now-annual Pride of Malton and Norton Awards endeavour goes from strength to strength. It depends upon nominations from the public for recognition in 10 categories, upon local businesses for generous sponsorship and the support of paying punters for a grand BAFTA-style dinner and awards ceremony.

This year a record number of nominations came in from the public – almost a thousand, but with many duplications of course.

The sifting and judging is in the hands of a group of fiercely independent adjudicators of known integrity and their identity is secret, a secret more closely guarded than the name of the London pub favoured by the Queen for her “girls’ night out” every Wednesday.

In case you have not been paying attention, the categories this year were as follows (with generous sponsors’ names in brackets): Customer Service (Boyes), Bright Young Star (McClarrons), Volunteer of the Year (AXA), Food and Drink (Tate-Smith), Established Business (Fitz-william Malton Estate), Business Personality of the Year (Crombie Wilkinson), Local Hero (Malton Coachworks), Teacher of the Year (Crow Recruitment), Charity of the Year (Malton and Norton Community Events) and Outstanding Achievement (the Talbot Hotel).

In 2013, when I had been writing this column for a couple of years, I suggested to the organisers that a new category might usefully be introduced for journalism, specifically “Most Promising Newcomer Pushing Seventy”. The organiser at that time was this newspaper 
and I thought that I would 
be a well-fancied runner. 
The silence was deafen-
ing.

Anyway, back here on earth, you’ll be wanting to hear about the BAFTA dinner. Held at the Talbot Hotel it was, as you would no doubt expect, a spanking do involving the localities’ best-dressed and well-connected personalities, with excellent food.

A bit of a panic when I fished my dinner jacket out of the back of the wardrobe; a spot on the lapel, almost certainly a gravy stain. Luckily, it turned out be slightly smaller than my enamel poppy pin so I didn’t disgrace 
myself.

There were, I think, 16 tables each seating 10. I had put together a table, which I think it is fair to say was the one with the most distinguished and stylish diners in the room.

I cannot reveal identities here, suffice it to say that they were all people who have good reason to be anxious about stalkers, identity thieves and unwelcome photographers. I was lucky enough to be seated between two delightful ladies, but it is a sign of the post-Harvey Weinstein times in which we live that I had to warn them against any inappropriate deeds or murmurings that might traumatise me.

After the awards ceremony – more of that later – there was a raffle and an auction, skilfully conducted in music hall style by Rory Queen.

A suspiciously high proportion of holders of winning raffle tickets were at one table, but I didn’t demand a re-run. Opposite me Mrs Croft was bidding recklessly for things we did not need or want. Her strategy I think was to drive up the bids and then drop out, leaving others to go the final lap, but her desire to win overcame what little financial prudence she 
has and an eye-wateringly large cheque had to be 
signed.

Now, the winners: Volunteer of the Year, Elizabeth Parlett Rhodes; Business Personality, Jim McMillan; Food and Drink, Yo Bakehouse; Teacher of the Year, Laura Ventress; Customer Service Award, No.1 Health and Beauty; Established Business, B. Leefe & Sons; Local Hero, Anne Pegg; Bright Young Star, Luke Woods de Lacy; Charity of the Year, The Perm Cup; Outstanding Achievement, Malton in Bloom.

I had a rollicking good time, as did Mrs Croft, photographed here next to unidentified male guest. The evening involved a lot of work, particularly on the part of David Macdonald, manager of the Talbot Hotel, and 
Mandy West, a former employee of this newspaper who in that capacity organised many previous awards events, in partnership with Gemma Bicknell of the Topiary 
Tree.

Together they were an unbeatable team and I hope that they will be available next year when maybe I shall be a lucky winner, of the raffle at least if not an award. Not even nominated this year – as usual.