In a normal year around mid-February, excitement starts to build as we celebrate the fantastic achievements of our wonderful student groups at Society Awards and Colours Ball. While we can't deliver these awards in the normal fashion this year, VP Societies & Sport Lucy Brown has a plan to deliver a virtual celebration!
VP Societies & Sport
In a normal year around mid-February, excitement starts to build as we approach two of the biggest events in the student group calendar - Colours Ball and Society Awards. Every year we organise these awards nights to celebrate the fantastic achievements of our wonderful student groups, and the individuals who contribute to their success.
Unfortunately, I have been preparing myself for this announcement since the start of the year, and I think we are all under no illusion that these great events so many of us know and love will not be possible this year.
However, having experienced first-hand both Colours Ball and Society Awards as a student myself, I am extremely aware of just how integral awards are to student groups. Not only do groups work tirelessly year-round to deliver an array of activities and events, but certain individuals also dedicate inordinate amounts of time and effort into supporting this work.
Whilst this year has been more challenging than any of us ever expected, it has also highlighted how student groups, and those individuals that help drive them forward, have gone above and beyond what is expected of them to deliver innovative and engaging activities in a completely virtual environment. In a year of enormous challenges to students, sports clubs and societies have played an instrumental role in bringing communities together and supporting students’ wellbeing. Personally, for this very reason, I cannot see a more important year to give out awards. Therefore, after consulting with the other Officers, the SSO Executive, and releasing a survey to all committee members, I have come up with a plan!
I would not be representing the interests of students if I let my personal opinion of awards this year get in the way. I have been very conscious of the fact that students involved in groups may not want to celebrate this year - I don’t blame you at all if this is the case, it has been crap!
In order to decide what to do, I consulted the SSO Executive and released a survey to all committee members as a way to hear the student opinion and, ultimately, make a decision based on the voice of the majority.
The questions in the survey were:
An overwhelming 90% of respondents said they wanted awards and this confirmed my position to plan an alternative awards event for our student groups this year.
Additionally, the platform most respondents wanted to engage with was Instagram, with a blended preference for posts, stories, and live video content.
Whilst 90% does present a clear majority favouring awards, there is still 10% of respondents who were not so keen and I would like to address this, because I do sympathise with this position. This year has been extremely difficult for student groups, so what have we got to celebrate? Trust me, I get it.
But I am extremely fortunate in my position as VP Societies & Sport, because it has given me the opportunity to see each student group this year overcome so much and, I know it sounds cheesy, but I truly am impressed and inspired by the work being done every single day. More so than ever before, student groups have become a safe and welcoming space for students to engage with others, meet like-minded individuals, and build long-lasting friendships. Committee members have taken more time out of their already busy schedules to adapt to a virtual environment, innovatively creating communities to support their members and members’ wellbeing. It is this that deserves recognition.
Obviously, we are not currently in a position to run an in-person event and we have no idea when this will change. In order to begin planning, we have made the decision to run an entirely virtual awards event.
We will be having a virtual Awards Week at the start of Term Three, with societies and sports clubs each being given an entire day dedicated to announcing the award winners on @SURHUL Instagram. To reflect the lack of a physical event, Colours Ball will temporarily be changed to Colours Awards.
Moving awards to Term Three was a suggestion made in some of the feedback and is something I completely agree with. This gives student groups the opportunity to complete more virtual activities and, ultimately, have more to write about in their nominations.
Both events will have an Instagram Live welcome, with the winners announced via a mixture of Stories, videos and posts on the main @SURHUL Instagram account.
As a way to round off the week, there will also be a little surprise coming as a new and exciting addition to the awards! I am going to keep all the plans for this under lock and key for now but keep your eyes peeled. ;)
The awards themselves are mostly the same, with a few minor adjustments being made here and there. Whilst I'm sure this comes as no surprise, we sadly will not be able to give out physical awards to individuals, but there will be a small surprise in store for any individuals who do win!
Unfortunately, taking into consideration the year student groups have had to contend with, a couple of awards are simply unattainable. As a result, these have been removed and we have replaced them with alternative, brand-new awards that were suggested in the survey responses we received.
One award that we sadly felt would be difficult to award this year is Colossus’ Sports Personality. This award relies on the interaction and involvement of an individual within both their own group and other groups, where someone has had a wide-reaching impact, and showcased great character and personality. Where student groups have moved online, this has meant there will be a lack of interaction with this personality on campus and awarding it would not be representative of those usually deserving.
As an alternative, we will be introducing VP Cup. This is an award given out annually at Society Awards and is the societies equivalent to Colossus’ Sports Personality - the only difference being that it is not decided from a student vote but a panel decision.
We also do not feel we are able to award Freshman Awards, since so much of group activity has had to be planned meticulously by committee members and this has left little space for new individuals to make the significant contribution usually seen recognised with this award.
Interestingly enough, most of the pre-existing criteria is still applicable and would allow for entries within the current climate of student groups. However, the criteria is being edited to include Covid-19 considerations and make it clearer for you when writing your nominations.
The panels will be reviewing nominations as a reflection of this year and, as always, it will be decided in relation to the criteria provided.
If I can give you one piece of advice, it would be to write your nomination based on the criteria provided to you, including as much detail to recognise the group or individual in the best way possible. Make sure to also keep an eye out for a nominations training session, where I will be giving you all my tips and tricks for how to write a stellar nomination and hopefully bag yourself the award you deserve!
Right now, you just need to keep delivering amazing activity and events like you have been doing all year! Criteria will be released later on this term, along with the information on how to nominate yourself and the all-important dates.
I understand that this is a lot to take in, and there are a lot of things that have needed to change. If you want to talk about any of this with me personally, I am more than happy to discuss your concerns, hear your suggestions, and learn how to make this experience as good as it can be for all of you. Please feel free to drop me an email!
Registered charity no: 1141998
The Students’ Union, Royal Holloway
Egham, TW20 0EX