Letís not forget that the awards are in only their second year now and have come a long way from nothing. The first year was held in a small venue as this was something that was completely new and nobody knew what to expect; Would any one turn up? Is there even any interest in Pantoland for such an event? Due to the venue capacity being 55 only a limited number of invites were sent out, mainly to the producers and winners of the awards. It most certainly was not the ĎQDos festí that people think (the stream is still on the Facebook stream if you want to count for yourself how many different producers were represented). As it turned out the venue could have been filled three times over and people did tune in to watch the Facebook stream, whether they liked the awards or not. Every thing about the first year was seen as a Ďbeta yearí; limited number of judges, limited number of shows covered etc. Fast forward a year and a lot of hard work has gone in to recruiting a bigger team and expanding in order to incorporate as many shows as possible. The criteria was set at any show held in a static venue of 450 seats or more, for over 20 days with a fully paid professional cast. The number of shows hitting this criteria is well over 200, all of which were attended over the 2017/2018 season. The awards would love to incorporate more shows into this but it can only be achieved by expanding the team. Some shows that donít meet the criteria (smaller venues and shorter runs) are not necessarily left out, if a judge is able to attend they will, it just depends on the logistics.
With the number of Pantos included expanding obviously the award ceremony itself needed to be bigger. To go from the Theatre Cafe to New Wimbledon Theatre was a massive leap. It was impossible to again predict how the awards would go. As it turned out the attendance was moderate but by no means a failure. The awards needed as much promoting and publicity as possible in order to try and make it a success. Gettiing performers involved on social media and pictures are all important ways of increasing awareness as this is still very new and advertising is very limited. When the Chortle awards started for comedy they had to beg people to attend as nobody thought it would take off. It was similar with the Oscars, 217 attended the first ceremony that lasted 15 minutes. Obviously Iím not comparing the awards to the scale of these but you get the idea. Tweeting people like Matt Lucas and Derren Litten was again trying to awareness; Matt Lucas was tweeted off the back of a remark he made about being a fan of Ronan Parke who performed at the awards, Derren Litten employs a lot of Panto performers in his show Benidorm. The organisers arenít Ďdesperateí for them to be at the awards, instead are desperate for the awards to be a success and to exploit every avenue to ensure this happens.
Feedback from the people that attended the awards has been positive. I didnít hear one person in attendance say a bad word about it. Yes there were a couple of slight problems with sound and run times on the Facebook stream, and even a couple of hiccups on the night. Again this is the second year and on a much grander scale, there will always be things that go wrong and to learn from.
As with any awards there will always divided opinion on nominations and winners. What is considered good and bad is subjective. There were plenty of reviews over Christmas slating pantos and performers up and down the country from critics who lets face it are dragged kicking and screaming to see something that they feel is beneath them. The awards pay no attention to this and focussed on celebrating Pantomime. People are always going to have different opinions on their favourite dame etc. Differing opinions even splits the judges on occasion. A lot of people suggest that fans and regular theatre goers should vote on awards rather than a team of judges but what are the practicalities of that? Performers who have the biggest social media following will always come out on top with many people voting only seeing one, if any shows.
Iíve rambled on a lot longer than I intended. I imagine youíve stopped reading long before this but just in case youíre still reading this isnít a rant, just aiming to clarify a few things that seem to be misunderstood. It is fantastic to see so many people passionate about Pantomime and interested in seeing it being rewarded, whether it be via the Great British Pantomime Awards or something entirely different. Setting up something on this scale is incredibly difficult and requires a lot of hard work but more importantly a lot of support. The applications for judges will be open in the next few weeks so if you really feel that a change is needed so badly put your money where your mouth is. Or stay safely behind your keyboards watching from a distance...
NB I am neither a judge nor one of the founders, I give my time to help out where I can through love of pantomime
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