On Thursday June 17th, about 500 employees of Sussex Partnership, a 5000 strong organisation, gathered in posh frocked, tuxed and bow-tied unfamiliarity, at the Corn Exchange in the centre of Brighton for our annual awards ceremony. This is a night of celebration, a way for outstanding achievement and exemplary professionalism to be recognised so that everyone from volunteers to leaders has chance to excel. And this year, for the first time, there was an award for Excellence in Research which just goes to show how far we have come in getting clinician-led research on the map.
We were all there, largely because we had pretty much all been nominated one way or another, and so, seated at Oscar-round tables and rehearsing our acceptance speeches (gather, gather!), we waited for the announcements. Not that waiting was any great hardship. Elegantly presented food in quite reasonable quantities adequately filled the gap although one of our number was clearly less than impressed by the artistry and would have traded the lot for bangers and mash faster than you could say multi-factorial randomised groups design. No, me neither.
There were two delightful surprises in the run-up to our category. First, the learning disabilities speech and language team won the Team of the Year category, and second, our own CLDT volunteer and one of my nominees, Kuljinder Dhanjal, received the award for Volunteer of the Year for her outstanding contribution to our work. Excellent! Then a friend took the Lifetime Achievement Award just before retiring after many many years NHS service and was presented with a box she could barely hold onto!
Finally, our turn – who would it be? Three of the ten nominees had been shortlisted – the Early Intervention in Psychosis Team, Mark Hayward – Director of Research, and my jolly amazed self. Well, there was no argument really; Mark established, structured and developed the research directorate without which the rest of us would have been in no position to be nominated at all. In fact there most probably would not have been a research prize to win, which is why I had nominated him in the first place. A reluctant hero, Mark was presented with his award by our Chief Executive, Lisa Rodriquez and the Trust Chairman, John Bacon and was subsequently hauled off to have his photo taken. He just may have been regretting going for the causal look at this stage but, this being research, expectations are generally driven by the dog-eared boffin look so on that count, we probably all came out quite well!
What also scrubbed up nicely was the knees-up that followed the ceremonials. A very fine band, Cat with the Hat (or some permutation of same), set up a blues & soul racket that had people of previously dignified demeanor getting it on down, moving it on up, and shaking more tail feathers than might be found in a free range chicken farm. Neither age nor aptitude got in the way of the serious shindig that followed and most of us only gave up when it became apparent that we’d need to phone for taxis before the last layers of hearing had been completely peeled away. My ears buzzed for two days, reminding me of the aftermath of an evening at the Hammersmith Odeon in the company of Hawkwind. Ah, the deafness of cool! At least when I’m muttering about people not speaking up and maxing out the volume control, I’ll know it was down to a life well lived and not just casual deterioration while I wasn’t paying attention, I’ll have earned my impairment!