Controversial awards ditched as entire board quits

A chain of events saw entire board resign and then the awards being pulled completely

30th July 2018 by Robert Armour 1 Comment

Organisers behind the Icon Awards have cancelled the ceremony after its entire board resigned.  

The annual event has courted controversy for nominating LGBT+ figures then asking them to pay for a place at the event.

Now in its fourth year, the awards recognise organisations and individuals “striving for inclusiveness and championing diversity in all forms across Scotland.”

However, they were plunged into chaos when one of this year's nominees, Time for Inclusive Education’s (TIE) co-founder Liam Stevenson, publicly requested that the Icon Awards remove him from this year’s shortlist, describing it as “outrageous” that those nominated were being charged £45 to attend.

He also questioned whether high-profile attendees including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and singer Annie Lennox would also be charged such a fee.

Stevenson added that should an attendee wish to bring a guest, the fee would increase to £135.

TIE also returned a previous £1000 donation it got after winning an award last year.

A backlash started, leading to a chain of events which saw the entire organising board resign and then the awards being pulled completely.

A statement on the awards' website read: "It is with great sadness that we write to confirm that the Big Impact board of trustees have decided to cancel the Icon awards. We hope that the amazing work that the finalists, community groups, charities and individuals do will be recognised in the near future.

"There is too little time to replace a credible board who would be responsible for reading submissions, doing the research and ultimately picking the award winners.

"The charity will now get in touch with all finalists and sponsors to confirm the decision and to organise full refunds to everyone who has booked and paid for tickets."

Scottish lawyer and former Icon Awards judge Aamer Anwar said on Twitter that he was previously aware that “charity groups and nominees could attend free and big companies paid - otherwise it became just another commercial profit event.”

He added:  “Please confirm you will remove charges.”

The charity Big Impact was created by the awards to distribute small amounts of cash to good causes. Last year it supported six charities with awards of no more than £1,000.

The awards have constantly courted controversy over its brief four year reign. Organiser Warren Paul was exposed by TFN after it had emerged an industrial tribunal rebuked him in a previous role for homophobic bullying.

Big Impact itself was mired in controversy earlier this year after its former chief executive Scott Barclay (now known as Scott Armstrong), narrowly avoided jail in February following being found guilty of stealing £10,000 from the TSB bank branch where he worked.

No-one from either organisation has as yet responded to TFN.

A statement from Big Impact was posted on the awards' Facebook page.

It reads: "Big Impact is young and ready to turn one year old. We are working hard to make a difference in the charity sector, and have already helped a number of charities which include Deaf Connections, Glasgow HomeStart North, Kilbryde Hospice, Italia Scotland and Bipolar Scotland.

"Our accounts will be ready to be viewed in the next 6 months and will be made available to anyone wishing to see them. We can assure you that all monies raised can be accounted for and we are in communication with OSCR the charity regulator to make sure we abide by all charitable rules.

"We lastly want to add that we are sad that the Tie Campaign have decided to return the donation of £1000 from Big Impact given last year. The Tie Campaign have achieved great things and are a fantastic organisation on a journey that we truly believe in."

10th August 2018 by James MacDonald

I was under the impression that Scott Barclay had reverted to his unmarried surname of Anderson, rather than Armstrong.. who knows? Worth keeping tabs on in any case, he'll doubtless resurface at some point with some new project to advocate for. The sector relies on sources like TFN to keep charities safe from such fraudsters and the like.