Allowing me to Believe: Organising the National Service User Awards 2018

A guest blog by Liz, Deputy Team Leader, Events Team and service user at Cygnet Hospital Beckton.

I’ve been asked to write a short blog about my experience of helping organise the National Service User Awards ceremony and hopefully this can give you an insight into what is required to bring such an event into reality. It might even encourage some of you to get involved for the 2019 awards.

Although I have been in hospital for nearly 7 years, 5 of which have been in Cygnet hospitals (Beckton and Ealing), I had never heard of the awards prior to 2017 when I applied to join the events team. To be honest, I can’t believe I summoned up the confidence to apply for such a role as it wasn’t that long ago I was too afraid even to attend groups within my own hospital!

Although being very nervous when the interview day came along, the staff were lovely which helped control my anxiety. I was delighted when later on the same day I was informed that I would be a Deputy Team Leader, albeit quite worried about the amount of work that would be required of me.

I have to admit that I have been very nervous when attending the various meetings (of which there have been 5 including an introductory ‘getting to know you’ meet up) but I have tried hard to confront these difficulties head on and I am proud of myself for what I have achieved so far. One of the most important jobs was finding a suitable venue for the ceremony and I spent hours researching on the web before settling on a shortlist of 3 places. Fortunately, one of the venues I had chosen, the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, was deemed affordable as well as practical and we have since been to visit the stadium to decide upon things such as the menu, tablecloths and stage location. The room that the ceremony will be held in looks fantastic and there is a great view of the pitch from within the room. I am a madly obsessive football supporter (Come on you Spurs!) and the Ricoh Arena is one stadium I had never visited so it is good that I can now tick that one off!

One of the best things about these awards is the way service users from medium and high secure units get involved. Although they are unable to travel to the actual ceremony due to the risk involved they have gotten involved by making table decorations and the trophies for each category. They are also, of course, able to be nominated in the various categories.

With the event getting ever closer I am becoming deeply worried about my role on the day. I have agreed to stand up on the stage in front of up to 200 people to address the crowd on what the NSUAs are about and I will also be introducing one of the categories. Dress is stated as optional black tie but I haven’t worn a dress since my sister’s wedding nearly 10 years ago and my legs must be ghostly pale by now! I don’t know what is more scary; talking in front of a large audience, wearing a dress or somehow putting mascara on without making a complete mess! Despite this, I am determined to prove to myself that I can do all of these things.

I have come so far from who I was when I first came into hospital and I want to prove to myself that I can continue to improve. Being involved in organising this great occasion has allowed me to believe, for the first time, that I can have a life outside of hospital.

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