ian curwen unawards.png

This week would have been UnAwards week. The 7th. It’s my favourite work week of the year and signals the start of Christmas. It’s a chance to celebrate, reflect, catch up with friends old and new and to fly a flag for our brilliant industry. Damn you, Covid. But return they shall…

by Ian Curwen

So, the advent calendars have been opened. Christmas trees are up and festive lights are working. 

Ordinarily this means communicators across the public and not-for-profit sectors are gearing up for the event of the year, The UnAwards.

If you’ve been buried under a rock, you might not know about the UnAwards. For the uninitiated, they’re the antithesis of traditional awards. Gone are the expensive entry fees and complex entry process. Out is the decadent awards dinner with eye-watering seat prices, sponsorship and drinks packages.

Instead, the UnAwards are free to enter awards designed to recognise the very best in communications and engagement.

In a year that isn’t 2020, the UnAwards would be reaching their climax right about now. The expensive dinner is actually a low-cost ceremony. In a cinema. With a classic film. And a veggie chilli. (See below for my ranking of the films shown in each of the five years I’ve attended).

I’ve been involved in the UnAwards as a judge for five years (disappointingly, this means I sadly did miss the very first year).

I’ve talked previously about what I’ve learned as a judge. But this blog isn’t about that. It’s about the ceremony itself.

The ceremony is always one of the highlights of my year. Not my working year. My whole year.

Getting to gather with 140 other communications professionals at a sell-out event to celebrate some amazing successes, while catching up with colleagues and friends is a genuine honour.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing UnAwards memories with others. Doing this made me realise just how the important awards are.

Firstly, it really is important to recognise success. In the public sector, or a charity, or other organisation with a miniscule budget, the chance to enter awards can be slim. The chance to attend an awards ceremony is often even slimmer. Taking the time out of your day, to be in the company of other brilliant communicators, sharing your successes is brilliant. It’s also the morale boost we really do all need.

But as we shared the memories, I realised something else. Over the five years I’ve been attending the UnAwards, I’ve came to make some fantastic contacts, with people I now consider friends.

The list really is too long to mention, but I first met or got to know friends Emma Rodgers, Eleri Roberts, John-Paul Danon and Leri Salter at the awards.

In doing so I’ve learned about what it’s like to be a head of communications at a unitary council, how the private sector can help budget-strapped councils to improve their communications, and how we can share some of the best practice from the awards more widely.

I’ve met people from a diverse set of organisations, championing a diverse set of causes.

More important than those specific stories, I got to spend time in the company of people going through the same struggles.

If we met this year, we’d all be sharing our stories of managing to keep the plates spinning while managing our Covid response and trying to prepare for Brexit. We need those discussions. We need to hear that others are going through the same situations.

Sharing a drink and a conversation with these people has helped me improve my communications skills and knowledge in an informal environment.

Looking back at the pictures of previous years’ ceremonies I see strangers who became friends. I see stories that became case studies.

The other thing I see is something that 2020 has taken from us – catching up with friends. Smiling Christmas drinks are on pause.

It’s important that we remember this is only temporary. The pandemic will pass, and we will catch up again. The UnAwards are pencilled in for 2021.

Use this time to finesse your entry, so you get a seat at what will be 2021’s hottest event.

For the record, my favourite UnAwards movies have been:

1.      Pulp Fiction

2.      Planes, Trains and Automobiles

3.      Groundhog Day

4.      Die Hard

5.      Jerry McGuire

Ian Curwen is a communications lead in the nuclear industry. You say hello at @iancurwen on Twitter and check out his brilliant blog site HERE.


The UnAwards post of the year ceremony is taking place via Zoom on 11 December at 11am.

Want to join the fun? Drop me a message at darrencaveney@gmail.com and I’ll add you to the list

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Pic by Nigel Bishop

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

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