The 2016 Spectacle Wearer of the Years Awards ceremony, which took place in London on Tuesday night (11 October) offered a taste of a Hollywood premiere, with a heady mix of celebrities and waiting paparazzi. But for me, it was the ordinary spectacles wearers who were the real stars of the night.
In the 21st Specsavers annual competition, the seven award winners, who had been chosen from 12,000 entries, included a bubbly teacher from Croydon, Ingrid Miller, who literally shone in her beautiful metallic dress, capturing praise and the camera lenses at every sparkle.
There was also a music promoter from Moss Side in Manchester, the wonderful character Tolu Ajayi. With his unusual dyed blonde Afro hair and distinctive nose ring, he had deservedly captured the People’s Choice Award after being nominated through Facebook.
Accepting his award, he gave a very moving speech praising the “love of his life,” who was in the audience, for giving him the courage to embrace his flamboyant character and to celebrate his sense of style.
Personally, I found it very gratifying to see the older generation at times eclipsing the younger winners. Receiving the Over-60s Award from fashion stalwart Twiggy, the glamorous Jan McConville received the only wolf whistles of the night, and then gasps of surprise from the audience when she admitted that she is 63.
With white hair, a beard and a moustache, the dapper Derek Dubery from Belfast was the overall winner, scooping the top prize of £10,000 and a holiday to New York.
In his acceptance speech he praised the event for supporting the anti-bullying children’s charity Kidscape, and then admitted that he hadn’t had a holiday for years as he hadn’t been able to afford to put his three dogs into kennels. A true winner indeed.
The audience were encouraged to promote a positive message about eyewear and, with lots of hair-flicking and reality-show pouts, shared their many selfies using the hashtag #loveglasses.
On the more clinical side, a woman guest told me that her young son had to wear an eye patch, but thanks to their “great family optometrist” and fun eye patch designs, when approached by a potential bully demanding to know why he was wearing it, the boy asserted that “actually he was training to be a pirate,” thereby stopping the stunned youngster in his tracks.
It can often be disheartening trying to highlight the value of eye care and eyewear to the public, but events such as this can illustrate that there is hope that the message is getting through – an inspiration to all of us.