From the outside, it looked a rather sombre event. Instead of a red carpet, an understated black version greeted the awards attendees today. A nod to the recession, perhaps” But once seated in London’s biggest cinema auditorium, all thoughts of the downturn were obliterated with barnstorming performances from Alesha Dixon (she brought the house down with new single Boy Does Nothing), and electric string quartet Escala.
It was an altogether dazzling affair. Eight categories of awards were presented by sponsors and celebrity ambassors from the Prince’s Trust fold. Young people, volunteers, team leaders, and budding business people were all honoured alike.
There were a couple of gaffes – DJ Ironic gushed about how pleased he was to be presenting an award with "the lovely Jamelia", disregarding co-presenter and sponsor Tim Sharp from Balfour Beatty. But the goodwill prevailed.
About A Boy star Nicholas Holt praised the work of the Trust saying: "I’ve been lucky. I’ve had a great childhood with great parents who supported me. The work of the Prince’s Trust is invaluable for people who haven’t been as lucky as me."
Martin Sheen was similarly bowled over: "I’m honoured to be here," he said. "This charity is making a difference for thousands of young people."
But the ceremony was not just about handing out plaudits. Prince Charles spoke at the end of the event about his pride in the "cycle of change" his charity has achieved.
Take Gina Moffatt. She started her business, Bloomin Scents, while still serving a six-year sentence in Holloway prison. With a loan from the Trust, she now provides flowers for both Holloway and Pentonville Prisons as well as the council of Haringey. But, most importantly, she is employing other prisoners in her fledgling business, even convincing the prison boards to allow current female prisoners to help her at outside events.
Moffat was shortlisted in the Enterprise category, but lost out to fellow entrepreneur Louise Firinne. Firinne originally hails from Australia, but came to the UK escaping violence at home. She was homeless, affected by mental and physical illness, when she found an outlet through creative projects.
She sought help from the Trust to set up her wedding stationery business, Simply Rouge, in 2008. "I always loved stationary and book-binding," says Firinne. "This business was perfect." The firm has gone from strength to strength, using high-end materials for one-off, luxury products.
Then there’s Lora Leedham, a school drop-out from the Black Country. She started her eponymous jewellery business in 2006. Today, her Birmingham-based firm has been featured in Vogue and Cosmopolitan. Prince Charles was even sporting a gold pin, designed by Lora, at today’s event.
It was an incredibly upbeat day: all that smiling has given me face-ache and my hands red raw from furious clapping. It costs over £50m a year to keep the Trust going. Let’s hope that these awards convince the sponsors and patrons to keep on giving to this worthy cause.
Picture: Prince Charles’ car!