It’s the day after the Good Spa Awards 2020 and I don’t have a champagne hangover or sore dancing feet? How come? Well, I was in my bedroom throughout for one. Normally, I would work in the home office aka kitchen table, but it was 5pm, loved ones wanted to cook, play music and chat.
So, I took my laptop off to my boudoir, plied on lots of make-up and a flouncy top, but kept the roomy harem yoga pants on – I felt it worked as a going-out look but that might be some form of lockdown fever where you start to believe your sweatpants are flattering. Instead of slippers, I decided to wear the same totteringly vertiginous heels I wore to the last actual real-life ceremony, where they nearly killed me on a marble lobby floor. Yes no one will see them, but when else can you wear gorgeous-but-deathly shoes in total comfort?
Making an entrance
Crippling shoes and a cup of tea – these are the modern dichotomies of at-home partying – I pressed the link and entered the virtual awards space. Having been to the real version, it wasn’t far off. There were tables filled with avatars or simple initials, and I felt a momentary pang at not being able to admire the gorgeous array of dresses. I ‘sat’ (double clicked) on my allocated table with Katie, my co-worker, but couldn’t get my mic or camera to work – the 2020 version of not being able to find a waiter(?). I had to leave and return via Google Chrome, by which point we were all thrust into online silence (weird to think there were chats going on, usually the room is buzzing) – the awards were beginning.
First up, Daphne Metland appeared onscreen as she would have done on stage, our boss and co-founder of the Good Spa Guide who has seen enormous changes in the industry since she launched our website in 2010, but none more so than this year. Daphne praised the resilience, passion and commitment of the UK spa industry throughout the pandemic.
We were then shown a video that effectively summed up the year, beginning with Boris (hopefully the only time he will zoom-bomb our awards) sneering at the beauty “parlors”, followed by a glimpse of MP Caroline Nokes standing up for the strong independent and usually female entrepreneurs, with her famous; “They need a date, they need to be taken seriously and they need that now!”. There followed a rousing montage of spas across the UK dealing heroically with re-opening guidelines - I was moved to tears and silently applauded at home.
Samantha Clarke, Happiness Consultant and TedX speaker, (pictured below) led the ceremony with an inspiring talk about how to refill our happiness tank in a pandemic. I wrote lots of notes – usually by this time I’m on my third glass chuckling along with the usual comic, but this feels like a free workshop on a retreat. I suppose this sums up the new world: less hedonism, more caring and soul-searching.
Samantha encouraged us to take a deep journey inwards, discover where we were carrying stress and what we needed to let go of. Where do we need to say “no”? She encouraged us to look at our Four Zones of Happiness – Work, Self, Others and, true to these times, Home – and see what area was zapping our power and enthusiasm, where changes needed to occur and what gave us power and purpose.
I loved the Erich Fromm quote: “Creativity and happiness requires the courage to let go of certainties.” This year has been all about letting go of certainties, so to hear it can be a route to happiness was a positive thought.
During Q&As from the audience, one question was about self-care being selfish, to which Samantha responded by saying: “It’s about bringing your best self to every situation.”
And the winner is…
Now to the bit we were all waiting for – the awards!
Samantha read out the nominations, runners up and winners for each category, Oscar-style, then the winners gave a brief speech online alone, holding their statuettes.
At this point, the room is normally whipped to a frenzy, with shrieks emitting from winning tables and usually an entire spa workforce huddling around the onstage mic before being whisked away for a glamorous photo. It was very strange to not hear the applause, to see everyone celebrating alone in their spare bedrooms, their speeches short and sweet. It was left to Samantha to embody the excitement with her own lone whoops and cheers – which as a happiness guru she did pretty well.
You can read the full list of winners below – it was a very tough decision to make, especially without the public vote. Also heartwarming to see the congratulations flooding into the chat box – this was less about competition and more a celebration of the industry as a whole, although obviously those with the statuettes were ecstatic!
Daniel Golby the general manager at ESPA, our main awards sponsors, wore black tie to announce the Best New Spa and played a short video showing ESPA’s glories – it was lovely to see glimpses of some truly glamorous spas, which we have missed visiting this year. Danny announced the winner of the Best New Spa category which was the uber new and chic Spa at Carden, a celebration of nature and wellbeing, two things that have kept us anchored in tumultuous times.
At the end, we mingled with those who could get their mics to work, which was nice without having to shout above the din of the band. Then at 6.30pm, the venue was closed. Instead of wandering wearily up to our hotel rooms, most of us went off to sort out our families or have our tea. My editor’s child was shouting for her in the background, and my cats had started to make an appearance.
It was all very strange, but heartwarming. I missed the fashion display and applause but loved the quiet genuine appreciation and the philosophical speech which was more honest and uplifting, recognizing the sadness and loss, as well as the extraordinary courage and ability to find moments of genuine happiness within it all.
I just can’t wait for the second lockdown to cease so we can all visit our award-winning spas.