Toy Industry Awards

If you had 200 professionals from the world of toys gather at Banqueting House you’d expect the evening to be a fun-filled affair – now throw in two toy-inspired puddings, four Golden Teddy awards and some focused business networking and it’s time to settle down for a story.

Just last month, Stand Out found itself walking down the red carpet in Banqueting House’s Undercroft event space – the scene for this evening’s drinks reception. Some XXX guests will soon congregate in just over two hours to sample substantial canapés, created by Create Food and Party Design. Lime leaf and coriander chicken on lemongrass skewers, crab cakes with ginger bisque dip, seared tuna, star anise syrup and crispy seaweed on a sipping spoon and a vereen of tapenade, mozzarella and sundried tomato are being prepped, as Charlotte Pudney, managing director of Papillon Events awaits the arrival of an illuminated bar.

Pudney is organising the Toy Industry Awards on behalf of the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA), which co-own this evening’s annual event with the Toy Retailers Association (TRA). The great and the good of the UK toy industry are to be honoured just as the first day of the 57th Toy Fair draws to a close.

Natasha Crookes, director of communications of the BTHA is also close by – she appointed Pudney to manage the awards just two years ago after taking responsibility of the ceremony from the TRA. The BHTA took over the event as it has a larger events team but with the Toy Fair also running understandably it’s a busy time of year for the association.

First choice

Last year’s event was held at Indigo at the O2 because the Toy Fair was held at ExCeL. This year, the fair has re-located taking advantage of the more centrally-located Grand Hall at Olympia. Hence, there was a necessity to find a closer venue for the awards.

Said Crookes: “We moved the exhibition because our exhibitors and visitors think fondly of Olympia, and it just worked for us in terms of timing, as we’d moved the dates of the show forward. This is something we were not able to do at ExCeL and so we find ourselves here.”

According to Pudney, with regard to venue choice Banqueting House has always been the front-runner.

“We had a short-list of three venues,” she explains, perched on a bench in the Undercroft. “We considered the Grand Ballroom in the Grand Connaught Rooms and then we also looked at Grosvenor House on Park Lane.”

The Toy Industry Awards is very much a business event, Crookes interjects, where people have the chance to unwind after the show and network.

Twenty-four awards will be given out tonight – including four Golden Teddy Awards given in recognition to those who have served in the industry a long time, seven retailer awards and the others a combination of honours for both products and special recognition.

The awards nomination process is handled by Liz McKay and lasts six months, collating award entries, drawing up short-lists and handling judging packs.

Sweet harmony

Tonight, guests are being served breast of Barbary duck with vanilla mash and then a choice of two desserts – a passion fruit mousse with a chocolate teddy and sugar spirals inspired by a Jack in a Box and a rocking, rocking horse, comprising rocking horse-shaped shortbread biscuits sandwiched together with chocolate mousse.

At £100 per ticket, the managing directors and chief executive officers of some of the world’s largest toy manufacturers will also be serenaded through dinner with gentle sounds of a harpist. Toastmaster Steve Warrick from the National Association of Toastmasters will also be keeping check on this evening’s proceedings.

Dressed in gold and red, from the red carpet by Melville to the red and gold table and floral decorations by Flowers by Eve, the awards have capitalised on the rich colours presented in the venue’s décor. Plus, the Toy Industry Awards 2009 is for the first time benefitting from an awards logo, specifically created for the event, which incorporates both the BHTA and TRA logos. It also carries hues of red and gold.

This colour theme has been carried through from the initial awards marketing material to the evening itself. The stage and set, created by Eclipse, is red also, and is sympathetic to the surroundings.

Continues Crookes: “We have to have a venue that is pretty spectacular because our guests are managing directors and chief executive officers so we need a glamorous setting.

“The evening is formal in a sense that it is a traditional awards evening, but the toy industry is pretty close knit so when people get here everybody knows everybody so if they haven’t bumped into each other at the Toy Fair during the day then they will get the chance to talk tonight.

“It’s very buzzy occasion and it creates its own atmosphere. Because it comes off the back of an exhibition, you work really hard during the day but then look forward to having a drink.”