The Loo of the Year Awards simply oozed class. People may poke fun at the name and giggle that such an event exists, but it was generally a pun-free zone. I'll admit I had initially raised an eyebrow at the ticket prices (over £100 once you factor in vat), but having been, not only am I glad I forked out, but I understand it. It's an event that brings together a whole range of people from washroom attendants and cleaners to owners of large companies, all dressed to the nines and enjoying a 4 course dinner . A chance to celebrate in a rather posh way a job that is often anything but.
The award (and associated ceremony) are given each year with one simple objective in mind:
"To encourage the highest possible standards inall types of 'Away from Home' or Public Toilets"It celebrates good provision and spotlight those who are going above and beyond. It raises the bar and gives incentive for people to focus on toilets, which is particularly needed in this day and age.
This year there were 1424 entries. Brighton & Hove city council went home with the overall 2013 Loo of the Year Award trophy. McDonald's Weatherspoons and Asda each cleaned up a fair few awards and trophies. While it's tempting to raise eyebrows at the corporate-ness of the event, again, given the number of people I know who use the toilet facilities at these establishments on a regular basis the awards are probably well deserved and paid for. Who says large monopolizing corperations can't be a force for good in the world?
One of the things that pleased me most was hearing the feedback to a presentation about Changing Places Toilets, which are designed for people with profound access needs above and beyond the remit of a standard disabled toilet. Because I have read up on them and talk to people about them every time I do a tour it is easy to assume that everyone gets it... especially people who work in toilet related industries. So to hear people fervently discussing the idea was good. If even a few of those discussions lead on to action then we're onto something.
Here's the video we watched at the event.
The other surprising thing was the lack of enthusiasm about loos from some of the people I talked to. I have met skeptics in the general population, but between the World Toilet Summit and the UCLoo festival I have been conditioned to believe that everyone who works in the sanitation industry is massively curious about both history and social good. Maybe that's a new market for me... shedding new light on business as usual. That might prove the hardest sell of any, but who doesn't like a challenge?