POSTED ON September 15th, 2018

In July this year the finalists for the EVA awards 2018 were announced where 15 women in different categories from Cumbria were selected as finalists. The next stage was individual presentations and a Q&A session, the winners to be announced at a gala evening at The Winter Gardens in Blackpool on Friday 28th September 2018. There was also an online vote to be used if there was not a clear margin between contenders.
As one of the finalists in the ‘Hospitality Category’ I felt deeply honoured to have been selected and proud to put my county on the map. I received a call from two colleagues locally Gina Pennington from Pennington’s Tea and Coffee and Alison Magee- Barker from AJ Lakes consulting to say they were also finalists. Over the next few days we discovered our county had got even more ladies through to the finals. Not only did I think this was a remarkable achievement for Cumbria but also because we are:
a) The smallest of all the counties represented in these awards for NW England.
b) That we are more of a rural county than the others.
c) Our demographics mean we are more isolated.

The Lake District has suffered from so much negative publicity over the last few years that I decided that this might be the catalyst to get some positivity out there to show that’s it’s possible to have a work life balance in this stunning county of ours. To show case the amazingly talented women and diverse businesses this county has to offer.

I contacted our local MP Tim Farron who regardless of politics has an outstanding track record for his empathy and is a phenomenal supporter of Cumbria. He was as delighted as I was and immediately offered to support us.

I contacted all the Cumbrian lady Finalists and we had our first meeting at Porto in Bowness thanks to the owner, Fay who is also a finalist. It was so inspirational and humbling to meet some of the finalists and to hear first hand that they also felt the same way as I did. Our group of Cumbrian finalists have all bonded together not for their own self gratification but to support each other and to raise the profile of Cumbrian Women in Business. What an achievement especially following the 2018 International Women’s Day. Interestingly the report by Grant Thornton international ltd entitled ‘Women in Business Beyond Policy and Progress’ highlighted that while “businesses globally have taken one step forward but one step back on women in leadership. Significantly more businesses around the world (75% in 2018 vs 66% in 2017) now have at least one woman on the senior management team, but the proportion of the team that is female has slipped from 25% to 24%. Sachs Romananovitch CEO at Grant Thornton UK LLP commented. “while it is hugely positive that women are in senior roles at more businesses, it’s disappointing that they are being spread so thinly”. Well we Cumbrian ladies are proving that up here we are not spread so thinly and that there are a lot of women in senior positions or business owners in Cumbria representing a plethora of diverse businesses.

Our meeting with Tim held on the terrace (only accessible to staff at the Houses of Parliament) was both informative and entertaining. We discussed the negative publicity in the Lake District which included the train service from Oxenholme to Windermere, the lack of the ferry from Bowness to Sawrey the lack of signage about The Lake District being granted World Heritage Status in 2017. We all felt there should be a large sign at Oxenholme and Windermere stations informing visitors along with signage as you enter and leave the lakes and on all brown destination signage. The public misconception that the road between Grasmere and Keswick is still closed, was personally highlighted to me at my EVA Interviews when describing the effects of negative publicity on the economy up here and one of the judges said he was unaware the road was now open which it has been for two years. Need I say more on this thorny topic.
We were fascinated to hear from Tim that like with the train disruption what he had done to try and
resolve the issues with the ferry Tim has got off his preverbal back side and has had meetings with the Scottish ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne to initially see if they could lend us a ferry until ours was repaired. Quite how it would have got here and into Lake Windermere Tim said would have been a problem worth solving. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a spare ferry but did send two engineers down here to help with the work on the ferry. As I said at the start Tim is phenomenal supporter of Cumbria as shown about and none of which I hasten to add has been reported locally.
Our campaigning has been recognised by Lancashire Life you did an article on us and later this month I’m off to Carlisle to Radio Cumbria to take part in their radio show.

– Susan Robinson

#EVAawards2018 #Cumbria

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