Part one – Meeting the Man.
It was back in 1983 when I made my one and only other trip to Guildford.
The last time I travelled up by train from Sussex as an excited teenager, on my way to an audition for the stage management course at the drama school there.
As it happens, I passed the audition and was offered a place, only to have my hopes dashed by the County Council bean counters refusing me a grant, otherwise I may have by now been part of the apparently thriving arts scene in this bustling, historic and leafy Surrey town.
Fast forward 30 years and this time I was making the journey with Elaine in my trusty Nissan Micra, all the way from rural North Devon.
But let me tell you, I was no less excited.
Possibly even more so.
Because this was it.
The event for which I’d been waiting with no small degree of anticipation for several months had finally arrived.
After a pleasantly uneventful journey “up country”, along spectacularly colourful, tree lined roads that cut through the undulating autumnal landscapes of Wiltshire and Hampshire countryside, we arrived at the pub guesthouse on Saturday afternoon (functional but disappointing) and went to stretch our legs in a nearby park.
And it was just as we returned to our accommodation that the man I was most looking forward to meeting arrived.
Adam Pain, the man behind the excellent A World Of Pain blog and co-creator of the Golden Face Palms, to nobody’s surprise turned out to be a thoroughly decent bloke.
Instantly likable, hospitable to a fault and possessing a talent to infect you with the same passionate enthusiasm he has for this mad idea – to spotlight the cringingly awful behaviour of those paragons of ineptitude and insensitivity in public life who clog up our newspapers and TV screens with their endless drivel by giving them awards, to be collected on their behalf by those who nominated them – he talked animatedly over a pint about how the project had first evolved and how blown away he was at the way support had grown in the lead up to the event.
(It is worth pointing out that Adam already has form for this type of spur-of-the-moment altruism, having used connections made via his job as music lecturer at the Academy of Contemporary Music to put together a charity single to raise money for Sophie, a little girl with cancer.
The video below was made after asking people on Facebook to send in thumbs-up photos, the idea being to get as many “likes” as possible.
The campaign eventually raised over £300,000, enabling Sophie to have life saving treatment)
Having agreed to meet up later on for a longer chat over a few drinks Elaine and I went in search of sustenance, finally settling on one of Adam’s recommendations, The Old Wheatsheaf, on the grounds it had the same name as our old local back in Sussex.
By coincidence they had just won Pub of the Year, and if the food and fine selection of draught ciders were anything to go by it was well deserved.
Suitably fortified we strolled back to meet Adam and his brother Matt at a more drink-centric establishment in the village, where we were soon chattering away like old friends. (I mentioned to Adam at the time how reading each others’ blogs had been a sort of virtual introduction, and that I’d known we’d get on before we even met)
Adam walked with us back to our digs on his way home, where we bid him goodnight and promised to meet up after we checked out on Sunday morning to finalise plans for the evening’s ceremony.
Once we’d taken our post-breakfast walk with Adam and his two dogs it was time to get nearer the action.
Ho and Trevor, old friends from Sussex, were coming up for the festivities and we were moving to meet them at a Premier Inn nearer town in order to have less of a journey home that night.
So having decamped to our new quarters and caught up with each other, eaten dinner and had a few pre-awards drinks, it was time (“at last!” I hear you cry) for the main event.
Part two – Beyond the velvet rope.
A quick trip up to our room to change into our glad rags and we were ready to go.
Me and my girl.
Look out Guildford! With Ho and Trev.
Arriving at The Star Inn we were met by our genial and frenetic host Adam, seemingly calm and eager to get things underway, who welcomed us with his normal affable charm and commented on how impressed he was with Ho’s cartoons on the blog before vanishing on some last minute errand.
And so to the ceremony itself.
The function room was already buzzing with excitement and laughter when we walked in, the neon signs of the bar giving a cozy glow to the back of the room, contrasting with the brightly lit stage in front of us.
Adam took the stage to wild applause and introduced The Spud Smith Band, the house band for the evening, who played superb off the wall funked-up jazz fusion numbers throughout the show.
Then the award ceremony began in earnest with the presentation of Golden Face Palm awards in categories including;
Film – won by Life of Pi for managing to win the Oscar for best cinematography, despite being mostly CGI-created animation;
Sports Personality – Oscar Pistorius for many obvious reasons;
and Music – Robbie Williams for Candy because, well, have you heard it?
All picked up – to the accompaniment of rapturous applause and wild cheering – by ordinary folk who had voted online for their own personal favourite celebrity cretin-fest or moment of teeth-grinding political stupidity.
“And the winner is…” Adam presents the first award.
There were many others, which I shan’t list here because the event was filmed for YouTube release next month sometime and I’ll let Adam do the honours on his own blog.
However I can say that one of the awards was for;
Documentary – won, despite tough competition from a film about London’s ceremonial bumbler-in-chief and novelty politician Boris Johnson, by a Channel 4 News report about Nigel Farage in Bulgaria.
And who’d have believed it, but that’s one of the many nominations I’d sent in, along with one for the deeply unpleasant Katie Hopkins (who I was secretly hoping was going to be the one I’d receive an award for) but never mind, she also won something. Much to my relief.
So I made my way to the stage amid much cheering – Farage had proved a popular choice – and to my delight was presented with my commemorative plaque by one of Adam’s former students, now BBC Radio 2 A-listed rising star, the beautiful, charming and extremely talented Emma Stevens.
(Sadly the only photo of this moment of glory was captured by Ho, on actual film, but I will post it as soon as I get it)
During the evening we were entertained by other former alumni of the ACM where Adam works.
Liv Dawson wows the crowd.
Apart from the wonderful Spud Smith and his band, we had music from Liv Dawson who had the crowd enchanted with her haunting voice and also a set by comedian Matt Blair, topped off with a short but fantastic set from Emma Stevens herself.
Here are some clips to give you an idea, including Matt’s brilliant text-speak karaoke song and one of the tracks from Emma’ debut album that she performed live.
I’m honoured to say that Adam singled me out more than once during proceedings, at one point getting the entire crowd to stand and raise a glass in salute to the dedication shown by me (and my “entourage” as he called it) by travelling from Devon to attend.
Although I think he may have used the word “lunatic” once or twice, I still choose to take it as a huge compliment from a man who not only brought together a whole load of amazing people in the name a really good cause, but showed them all a bloody good time and helped raise money for charity into the bargain.
I’m also happy to report that the parents of Sophie, the little girl for whom Adam raised the money, were there to present an award and to tell everyone that she was doing fine and that they’d celebrated her birthday only the day before.
And as if that wasn’t enough, before we all went our separate ways the next morning Adam insisted on meeting up so he could buy us breakfast.
The breakfast after the night before, Adam – second right.
A complete and utter triumph all round then.
We met some great people including top bloke Matt Pain, the lovely Simon Venn and the even lovelier Debbie, Adam’s wife.
And what’s more, I’m reliably informed that there are already plans in the offing for next year’s event, so watch this space.
Now, where can I position my award for maximum impact…?