EN guest editor Phil Soar was commemorated for a lifetime of dedication to the exhibitions industry with the Outstanding Contribution Award from the Association of Event Organisers (AEO).
Soar described the accolade – handed to him at the AEO Centenary awards on 10 December – as “a group of tired old men talking about another tired old man” but paid tribute to the staff and colleagues who worked beside him during his illustrious career.
Nigel Nathan, managing director, Olympia London, asked AEO members to “appreciate the genius that is Phil Soar” as he presented the trophy, at the NEC’s Vox venue, in Birmingham.
Nathan took the audience down memory lane listing Soar’s career highlights – including his first ever award as Nottinghamshire’s most beautiful baby.
Nathan said: “Phil has never left the exhibition world.
“He’s now best known for CloserStill, which he formed with Andy Center and Mike Wescott in 2009.
“The company began with no shows, no staff and just a small amount of cash. In the last nine years CloserStill has won no fewer than 57 major awards. Again Phil would stress that he needs no credit for these awards, for more than 100 separate CloserStill staff have won an award either as an individual or a member of the team in those nine years. Including the seven trophies in a single night at the EN Awards in 2014.”
Nathan praised Soar for leading CloserStill to be named one of the Sunday Times 100 best companies to work for three years in a row. “The first company to receive such and accolade,” said Nathan.
Accepting his trophy with a tear in his eye Soar again shared the glory. He said: “This is generally the part of the celebration that according to my son Alex is ‘the part of the ceremony when a group of tired old men talk about another tired old man’.
“So, I have decided not to do any of that. I would only really like to say one thing, this award has existed for 20 years and the EN Award equivalent for seven or eight years, in that period no fewer than five Blenheim alumni have won
this award, which is quite remarkable for a company that in truth lasted only seven years.
“I don’t think that’s the end of it. In future years I would like to see more Blenheim alumni standing on this
stage. Not least Nigel himself, Lou Kiwanuka, who is the chair of ESSA, Paul Thandi, of the NEC, and not least the shy, quiet retiring, Peter Jones. Thank you very much.”
More than 450 AEO members attended the 1920s themed awards ceremony and celebration. AEO chair Carina Bauer said: “This event not only celebrates 100 years of the AEO but also for all of us a very much needed celebration.”