IPSE Freelancer Awards 2021 go off with a bang (and a pop at covid)

The IPSE Freelancer Awards 2021, held Thursday, left attendees with a rare insight into what the UK’s self-employed creatives experienced, endured, and excelled at during coronavirus.

Hosted by Live at the Apollo comedian Laura Lexx, the ceremony saw nine freelancers crowned for projects they industriously worked on since the pandemic upended their self-employed lives in March 2020.

Two brave souls even launched a podcast in the heart of lockdown.

“Actually, it was good because we did much of it via Zoom. There was big demand, and we got all the guests we wanted because everyone was at home,” mused Freelancing for Journalists podcasters Lilly Canter and Emma Wilkinson, who won IPSE’s Freelancing Project Award.

'Struggling self-employed'

The pandemic made appearances throughout the night.

Scooping the Wellbeing Award, Julia Payne was commended for getting 2,000-plus toolkits on mentally looking after oneself into the hands of freelancers “at a time when many self-employed were struggling”.

And as CEO of creative ‘think-do tank’ The Hub, Payne created and distributed the ‘Balance Your Mind’ kits amid “little government support [financially]” for the recipients, according to the awards' judges Freelance Folk founder Katy Carlisle, freelance song-supremo Rachel Mason, and IPSE CEO Derek Cribb.


Echoing on Thursday evening the sentiment that covid has indeed thrust onto freelancers a ‘new normal’ was Simon Butler, chief executive of CMME.

Yet once at the podium, he appeared to do it an off-script-type of way when he said he was sure everyone was now “sick” of the word “unprecedented.”

But presenting the Covid-19 Success Story Award to Nadine Campbell, who was jobless during the pandemic so unselfishly turned her hand to supporting black-owned enterprises, Mr Butler got back on-message, by saying the pandemic had been “extra tough” on the self-employed.

'Didn't mind the pandemic as a freelancer'

However despite them doing “amazing” work, such freelance sole traders were now part of the “new reality for business,” he cautioned.

Then, even the comedian-compere herself got in on just how covid has left an indelible mark.

And apparently, not even relationships with loved ones are immune from the effects of covid.

“I didn’t mind the pandemic as a freelancer,” an upbeat Laura Lexx began. “Until [-- that is, you look at your partner] and realise -- you have to be with each other ALLLLLL the time!”

'Grit, steel, tenacity, energy'

If patience was the virtue that the self-employed needed at home during the lockdowns, the qualities which freelancers needed with their clients was spotlighted at the ceremony.  

Given Ms Campbell was jobless, the founder of ACE Entrepreneurs employed “grit and steel” to get her start-up off the ground, and with their podcast, Ms Canter and Ms Wilkinson showed “tenacity and energy”.

Being awarded best New Freelancer, marketing consultant Claire Hutchings was similarly cited for demonstrating pure resilience (she was made redundant during the pandemic while on maternity leave) -- but also generosity, because she “gave her time and skills” to charities.

'Government missed the mark'

Meanwhile, anointed Young Freelancer of the Year freelance journalist Liam O’Dell was acknowledged for his fortitude, assertiveness and sheer bravery in “challenging the government when they missed the mark.”

Explaining his “back story”, the writer outlined to the auditorium how he confronted the government for failing to provide an in-person British Sign Language interpreter for its coronavirus data briefings.

But it was the lighter covid references that produced the most noise from the audience.

'I can do this one from my bed!'

“We’ve all forgotten that you’ve now got to get dressed for events like this – and the bottom half too,” Laura Lexx joked, in a nod to freelancers using Zoom and Teams but secretly still wearing their pyjama bottoms.

She recalled: “Is it just a phone call? Ha -- I can do this one from my bed!”

Later, pointing the finger at unappreciative clients not thanking freelancers for going the extra mile during covid, the comedian told Covid 19 Success Story Award joint-winner Faye Dicker, a voiceover artist and the founder of Freelance Mum: “As freelancers you don’t get many people saying ‘thank you,’ do you? Clients won’t thank you, but [tonight] -- IPSE will.”

'Horrible year for those without a safety net'

Perhaps owing to her status as independent author and actor who endured lockdown, Lexx too sounded aware that clients not giving feedback has been far from the big challenge of late for one-person businesses.  

“[During the pandemic and lockdowns]; work-life balances -- they don’t exist,” she said, for once with no punchline. “It’s been a horrible year or so, for everyone who didn’t have a safety next.”

Elsewhere at the ceremony, Andy Chamberlian, policy director for the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), joked that he was just pleased to have a night off from talking about IR35.


And afterwards, the association’s Mr Cribb thanked all the attendees and award entrants.

“There was an extraordinary level of talent on display in the submissions this year. Enormous congratulations to all the finalists and winners.”

He continued: “It’s brilliant sometimes to be able to turn from the politics and campaigning to bring together the freelance community we represent and, after an extraordinarily difficult 18 months, celebrate the extraordinary achievements of our vital freelance sector.”


19th October 2021

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