Silence at the back please!

On Monday night 1,200 of the best of the best of the facilities management sector will come to the Grosvenor House on London’s Park Lane for a jolly night out. We’ll drink, eat and network, listen to a few jokes from the comedian and go home with a bunch of business cards, some promises of meetings and memories of a good night out.

I’ve been to the last nine BIFM Awards dinners, and several other businessy events at the Grosvenor in-between and have come to associate the place with a good fun, if slightly navel-gazing,  evening.

But I saw the building in a different (slightly pinkish) light last night when 10 FMers took a table at the Breast Cancer Care Show to support Ismena Clout, BIFM chairman and FM stalwart.

Many in the FM sector know about Ismena’s own battle with cancer, and so it was incredibly moving to see her strut her stuff on the catwalk, looking every inch a top model. She was just one of 20 such models, all with similarly inspirational stories. What set last night apart from the typical awards dinners was not just the girl’s night out atmosphere, or the A-list celebrities but the mood of mutual support. Many of the women who modeled outfits from top designers  had had mastectomies and lost their hair through chemotherapy and were learning to live with their new bodies – something that is unimaginable for someone who hasn’t taken that journey.

Too often at the BIFM Awards (and other such business events) we talk over the comedian and start to get bored after a couple of award presentations. Not so last night – when Breast Cancer Care chair of trustees Jane Hinnrich took to the stage and talked about some of the people the charity had supported, the only sound was of people wiping away tears (and getting out their credit cards to fill up the charity’s coffers). Even at the very end of the event (when many a bottle of wine had been consumed) the atmosphere was celebratory, supportive and fun.

Those of us back at the Grosvenor on Monday night could learn a great deal from the example set by the Breast Cancer Care Show audience. Maybe the FM of the Year might not have been through such a traumatic and life-changing journey as receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer and going through treatment, but they’ve still worked incredibly hard to be at the pinnacle of their career and deserve respect for that. I’ve seen and heard tales of back-biting and sniping about the awards winners but it would be great if we could see the BIFM Awards dinner, and the P&FM one next month, as an opportunity to come together, showcase the best of the best of our industry and be mutually supportive.

Cathy Hayward