The 20th Natural Stone Awards might not have taken place quite as originally planned in a plush hotel in London at the end of 2020, but they will certainly be remembered as the first (but possibly not the last) Stone Awards to be presented online.
The presentation ceremony took place on Friday (19 March) on YouTube. Sports presenter Jim Rosenthal once again fronted the Stone Federation Great Britain event, as he has done for the past 15 years in a double act with unseen BBC announcer Alan Dedicote, who is surely now the voice of natural stone as well as being more widely known as the voiceover artist on Strictly Come Dancing.
As you would expect of two such seasoned presenters, they were as comfortable in front of the camera (or behind it in Alan’s case) as they have been in front of a live audience.
The whole event was executed smoothly and expertly, with contributions from Stone Federation Chief Executive Jane Buxey and President Marcus Paine.
There were good quality videos of the award-winning projects and brief acceptances by some of the Award winners.
Afterwards, Jane Buxey said: "The Natural Stone Awards are an opportunity to celebrate the very best that the natural stone industry has to offer, and this year, despite the challenges faced by the industry over the past months, the quality and quantity of entries submitted was as high as ever and congratulations to all the projects that achieved recognition.
"Although we would have cherished the opportunity to gather with all our guests in person, instead we fully embraced the unique opportunity that the online ceremony presented, allowing guests to join from around the world. While the individual materials we work with and the countries they come from may differ, the virtual awards enabled us to gather as a sector, as one big global stone family to celebrate the very best that we can achieve, and the presentation has had over 1,000 views to date.
"I want to thank the judges for their dedication under the trying conditions and all our valued sponsors whose support enabled us to go ahead online."
The online presentation demonstrated how Stone Federation and the natural stone industry continues to showcase just how versatile this material can be and is consistently raising the bar in how it demonstrates the sustainability and ethical sourcing credentials of both the material and the sector.
The Awards, held every other year, are one of the highlights of the stone industry calendar and usually attract a capacity audience from stone companies and their clients – as they did in 2018 when some 360 people sat down to the Awards lunch at The Grange Tower Bridge Hotel in London before seeing the prizes presented.
On YouTube, the audience for the event itself approached 200, but the recording remains on YouTube (see bit.ly/SFNSA2020) and was watched more than 1,000 times in the two days following the event.
After the presentation ceremony, there was the opportunity for the audience to join a post-event quiz, with prizes donated by Schluter Systems, one of the headline sponsors of this year’s event along with Hardscape and Welsh Slate. Being online gave the sponsors an opportunity to present CPDs in the days before the Awards presentation ceremony itself, getting the natural stone message out to an even wider audience.
The first of the CPDs was from Schluter, offering a 10-point plan for a perfect wetroom, followed by a presentation by Hardscape about landscaping.
You can see all the Award winners, as well as the Highly Commended and Commended projects in the 2020 Awards in the Natural Stone Specialist magazine. And the full souvenir Awards brochure can be viewed online at bit.ly/NSABrochure20, or you can request a hard copy to hold on to by going to bit.ly/2NwoQua.
Of course, an online event does not have the advantage of people being able to sit down together to enjoy food, drink and conversation, and the Federation hopes the next Awards presentation, in 2022, is already scheduled for 2 December, once again in association with a celebration lunch at The Grange Tower Bridge Hotel (although it is now called the Leonardo Royal Hotel London Bridge), although possibly also being presented online, or at least a recording of it going online.
If you have a project you are currently working on or have lately finished that you believe could win a Natural Stone Award, now is the time to start preparing your entry for the 2022 event.