Back before the turn of the century, an editorial team meeting within Trinity Mirror of The Daily Mirror team was called by its future editor Peter Willis, who had a vision to find a way to celebrate the heroic acts of bravery that the newspaper was regularly reporting in some way.
That meeting would lead to an awards ceremony that has become an annual staple in the television calendar where celebrities, politicians and prominent figures acknowledge and reward everyday people for their acts of valor. That ceremony, the Pride of Britain Awards, this year celebrated it’s 20th anniversary, with 19 years being broadcast by ITV to the nation, bringing many floods to tears to those in the room, as well as those watching from home.
This year, to celebrate the two decades since its inception, The Drum will give a special award to those behind the ceremony at its annual Experience Awards in London, to recognize that Pride of Britain has become one of the nation’s most visible events and one that has touched millions over its two decades in existence.
“It’s not just some big awards ceremony where famous people who earn millions of pounds get a pat on the back for doing their job week in, week out,” explains Michelle Linaker, head of national events for Reach (formerly Trinity Mirror) which owns and runs the awards each year. “These are normal people who just do that bit more. It’s inspiring.”
Hosted by Carol Vorderman who has become synonymous with the event over the decades, the awards were initially chaired by then Mirror editor Piers Morgan until his departure in 2004, when Willis, who is acknowledged as the founder of Pride of Britain, took over.
"We launched back in 1999 as a way in which, with the help of our readers, we could celebrate the remarkable achievements of unsung heroes. For us and our ITV partners, it's been a real privilege to tell hundreds of extraordinary stories over the past two decades which have been truly inspiring,” Willis told The Drum. "In these turbulent times, it's perhaps more important than ever to focus on what unites us as a nation and what we should be celebrating.”
The first awards to be broadcast, (in its second year) saw nearly 10 million viewers tune into ITV, still its largest audience figures today, and it has remained a staple of ITV’s calendar ever since with TSB becoming a main sponsor in 2016.
“Pride of Britain is a national institution. Now 20 years old its the only awards event of its kind recognising the inspiring and brilliant work of individuals who make a difference in their communities every single day,” offered Pete Markey, chief marketing officer for TSB.
Over the years most of Britain’s most famous faces have appeared on stage with award winners, including David Beckham, Simon Cowell, Sir Richard Branson, Emma Bunton and Prince Charles, such is the desire to get involved in showing support to those who have put others first in times of crisis.
Asked about the pressure of organizing such an occasion, Linekar explains her view that she and her team have “a duty” to make sure that the night the winners have is amazing. “They deserve it,” she adds.
The Pride of Britain Awards will be recognised at The Drum Experience Awards this week [Wednesday 4 November] at The Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square London.