Thursday, 24 September 2009

Would you want to judge babes or babies?

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of being invited to be one of the judges at the Frome Agricultural and Cheese Show.

You may feel this is because of my expert knowledge about both agriculture and cheese. But your feeling would be wrong.
As a newspaper editor (and in this case it is with my hat on as editor of our sister papers, the Somerset Standard & Guardian), you are regarded as an independent person who can bring something fresh and unbiased to the judging table.

It is for this reason that over the years the words “judges include Sam Holliday” have been applied to a bewildering range of events.

I have judged (among others) dog shows, baby shows, short stories, rock bands, art competitions, firework posters, singers, young business people, newspapers, sportsmen and sportswomen, various personalities of the year awards and a somewhat embarrassing number of beauty competitions.

At each turn I’ve tried to be as independent and as bias-free as possible because I think as editor I am really there representing all our readers and therefore I have to be as impartial as possible and just look for the best in the various categories put in front of me.

I have to say that although it is a great honour to judge, it is not as easy as you think and particularly when you find yourself in the very dubious position of judging people by their looks.

Over the years I have helped to select a Miss Bath, a Miss Tamworth, a Miss Sutton Coldfield and a Miss Walsall. This may make me sound like an appalling letch, but I assure you I’m far from being so.

I’ve always been invited because we’ve tended to publicise such events and our ‘reward’ is a seat on the judging panel. The irony is, I sort of think this thing is all a bit outdated and I’m in the bizarre situation of feeling quite embarrassed at times in not knowing quite where to look . . .

In Bath, of course, all the young ladies who entered tended to be very articulate and intelligent and so we were able to judge people as a whole, as it should be, but I remember with a wince one of the years when I judged Miss Walsall, where, shall I say, there were more tattoos on view than GCSEs with oen or two of the ladies. I can still recall one horrible moment when I was in the men’s toilets during the interval and a very large man with less hair than a snooker ball said to me: “You’re one of the judges aren’t you? My girlfriend never got through the first round – are you saying she’s ugly?” The answer (of course) was I didn’t – but what could I do about the rest of those judges apart from recommend a trip to Specsavers?

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