A DASL-ing Success For The Devon & Somerset Law Society
Grow Talk by Sofy Robertson
Photography by Nick Hook
There are very few moments in life where you feel joyful, child-like excitement and a sense of being small; humbled by something more grand or extraordinary than you can imagine. That was the feeling I experienced when I stepped into Exeter Cathedral on Thursday night for the Devon & Somerset Law Society Legal Awards 2019 and, I am fairly certain, I was not the only one.
I have been to Exeter Cathedral before, several times in fact, and have always marvelled at its impressive structure and its ability to make me feel so small; dwarfed by its sheer size but also by its history and the imprint left by hundreds of years of life. For the biggest event in the Devon & Somerset Law Society legal calendar, however, it was transformed, or perhaps more accurately, it transcended my expectations.
Lit with pink and purple-blue hues by Warwick Events, the stone pillars and enclaves took on a surreal quality. Table after table lined its centre and as the guests arrived, all thoughts of the wet and miserable night outside were forgotten.
The awe in the room was tangible, with guests standing stock still at points to stare at the ceiling and take in the full grandeur of the space. Nick Hook, the official photographer for the night, was busy trying to cover the hugeness of the space and capture the moments of delight as the guests entered and weaved towards the Oddfellows bar or to their tables. He also managed to steal in on several selfie moments as phones appeared from bags and suit jacket pockets to document the night.
Guests began to take their seats as the fantastic Exeter Rock Choir began their performance in front of the stage. Like a singing army, they marched proudly into place, their black t-shirts emblazoned with a golden star. Grow’s editor, Joff Alexander-Frye, described them as a “subtle but perfect choice” to open the evening, their 140-strong voices lifting above the buzz of conversation and their smiles beaming out, projecting the positivity that they felt from the guests.
After unashamedly singing along to their final song, I joined the guests in a thundering round of applause for the Rock Choir. The buzz of conversation returned and the anticipation of the evening’s ceremony seemed to increase.
Before the all-important ceremony, the guests were treated to the equally important dinner, catered by Posh Nosh. There were ooohs and mmms (many coming from my mouth) as the black-uniformed staff deftly picked their way between the maze of tables to deliver flatbreads, dips and the stars of this Moroccan-style feast: sharing platters of lamb with new potatoes and a whole stuffed and roasted butternut squash.
The photos of the food, captured perfectly by Mr Hook, re-create that mouth-watering sense of anticipation as the food was delivered to the tables. I even heard one guest commenting that these were the best potatoes she had ever had and phrases like “melt in the mouth”, “divine” and less intelligible mumbles of delight were also audible.
The feasting continued with a trio of mini desserts and, in case there was any room left, a board of local cheeses. Further temptation on the table took the form of personalised Toblerone bars, each bearing the name of the company sitting there, courtesy of the DASLS 2019 headline partner: Commercial Managed IT. As James McNally from Slee Blackwell aptly tweeted:
“You know you’ve made it when your name is on a bar of Toblerone #DASLS2019.”
And from the look of the #DASLS2019 Twitter feed, the guests loved a cheeky pic with them.
After the guests had demolished their sharing platters and enjoyed the variety of drinks provided by the Oddfellows bar, it was time to get down to the serious stuff.
President of the Devon & Somerset Law Society, Stephen Mahoney, who had jetted in that night, took to the stage to deliver the opening speech.
Chair of the judging panel and Dean of Exeter Cathedral, the Very Reverend Jonathan Greener, was next to speak and offered a witty prayer for the night:
“The Best lawyers of Devon & Somerset
Gather for a dazzling dinner
Though they tuck in with some apprehension
Hoping to emerge as a Winner
So bless dear Lord the food we share
And make it taste it divine
Then take our South West water
And turn it into wine. Amen.”
After further speeches by Richard Blundell, Divisional Director of Commercial Managed IT, Sam Thompson, partner at WBW Solicitors and Nigel Lyons, Vice President of the Devon & Somerset Law Society, Alexis Bowater of Bowater Communications took to the stage to host the night.
The black cloth that had been used to cover the trophies was whipped away and the beautiful Dartington crystal awards winked cheekily under the stage lighting, bearing the secret knowledge of their winners.
Needless to say, it was an emotional sixty minutes as the winners and those highly commended in their categories were announced. The Twitter wall, provided by Warwick Event Services, lit up with the hashtag #DASLS2019 as photos and congratulations flowed. The stand-out Tweet of the night had to be from Imran Khodabocus’s wife as we announced his win of the Solicitor of the Year award over Twitter:
“Ahhhhhh whoop whoop whoop! I’m waking the children up to tell them! Well done husband”.
This was promptly followed by Norman Hartnell’s reply:
“We are all in tears of joy here Sariqa”.
Of all the Tweets of the night, few epitomised the emotion of the moment as beautifully as this.
Commenting on the DASL-ing success of the night, Tony Steiner, Executive Director of DASLS, explained:
“This stunning event exceeded our expectations and has established DASLS Legal Awards as the premier event for Solicitors in the area. Congratulations to all of our winners and everyone that was shortlisted; this was a celebration of good service and high standards in the Solicitors’ profession.”
Alice Bryan, Head of Events at Grow, said:
“This year’s event was one the DASLS committee had wanted to achieve since the start of their prestigious awards programme. I feel very honoured to have project managed the previous awards and to finally be able to achieve this in 2019.
“The success of the evening came from working with a great team of experts who all played their parts to deliver a stunning event; they all delivered above and beyond.
“This year I was fortunate enough to form some new relationships, as well as strengthen existing relationships, with sponsors who made the evening possible. I would like to thank them and all who took part in the DASLS 2019!”
As Wollen Michelmore accurately described in their Tweet, it truly was a DASL-ing night. There can be nothing more relentlessly positive than celebrating the hard work, talent and comradery of the legal profession we are fortunate enough to have in Devon and Cornwall and though I am certain we are all still riding high from this year’s awards, the promise of #DASLS2020 is in the air.
To view the full list of winners and those who received Highly Commended recognition, click here.
Below you can find a few highlights of the night, captured perfectly by the wonderful Nick Hook, otherwise known as The Bearded Snapper: