Members of the steering group which organises and oversees the prestigious Oldham Business Awards have taken the difficult decision to postpone the 2021 event.
The group, comprising volunteers from the private and public sectors of the Oldham business community, has been meeting – via Zoom conferencing – on a regular basis.
There had been optimism that a gala celebration dinner could take place around September, but despite the huge strides made the vaccine project across the UK the group has concluded they are unlikely to be allowed to host an event with 600-plus people.
The gala awards dinner, held every year at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, is the culmination of a year-long effort with huge amounts of work going on behind the scenes.
Steering Group Chairman Steve Kilroy, who was involved in the first event in 2009, exclusively revealed to Business Edge: “We were really optimistic that we could host an awards dinner later in the year, but the reality is that is now unrealistic.
“There is so much more to these awards than just organising a fantastic night out at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. We have to organise entries in the various categories, then judging panels, then interviews of the finalists, not to mention filming. We have networking events for finalists and sponsors, launch events.
“We also need to know that our very loyal sponsors are still with us. So far our sponsors have been truly amazing, from the first time we approached many of them in 2008.
“Without our sponsors there isn’t an event, it is as simple as that, but no one knows just how hard this coronavirus pandemic, and subsequent lockdowns over the last 12 months, have hit revenues.
“Knowing the Oldham business community as I think I do, they will do everything they can to support the town, but we have to be realistic. The last 12 months have been a nightmare for many businesses.”
Mr Kilroy, who ran the former BAE Systems business at Greengate, Chadderton, until the aerospace giant moved production to other sites, is convinced that Oldham and the awards will bounce back.
He added: “Remember, we launched these awards in 2008 when the world had fallen off a financial cliff and we were entering the worst recession for a generation. Yet the business community rallied and helped make the Oldham Business Awards the biggest and best of its type in Greater Manchester.
“I have no doubt that we can do this again. But sadly, not this year.”
The steering group has maintained engagement with major sponsors and supporters through emails, press releases and the increasingly influential website – hosted by Cornerstone Design – and this will continue.
He is hopeful that the hugely popular Oldham Corporate Quiz, organised and hosted through the awards, can go ahead as a virtual event through Zoom later in the year and urges sponsors and supporters alike to ‘Watch this space!’ for more details.