THE countdown is on to the county’s first ever virtual in-Cumbria Business Awards tonight.

The big event, a staple in the county’s professional calendar, will be a unique experience but no-less a special occasion in response to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Taking place interactively via a live stream the event will start at 7pm.

Vassos Alexander, best known as co-presenter of the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Virgin Radio and host of the Parkrun podcast, will be the face of this year’s awards and crowning the selected winners across the 11 prizes on offer over the event including the very coveted lifetime achievement award.

Speaking of his enthusiasm for the occasion, Vassos, who has also appeared on a number of BBC radio and TV shows, said: “I am excited to be hosting the 2020 in-Cumbria Business Awards and am delighted to be able to help Cumbrian businesses celebrate on what I am sure will be a very special evening.

"It has been a difficult year in so many ways, so I am looking forward to playing my part in giving people something to cheer about and making sure this is a real night to remember. I can't wait to be there."

As in previous years, one of the most keenly watched awards will be that for Lifetime Contribution to Cumbria, which last year went to John Grainger, executive director of Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster.

This year will also feature the Best Community Involvement award - sponsored by the Cumberland Building Society - but with a specific focus on how businesses have helped their communities during the coronavirus crisis. A new award, the Against All Odds Special Award - sponsored by BAE Systems, will celebrate businesses which have battled against the odds to survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

The other prizes up for grabs, and the sponsors of the awards in brackets, on the night are Businessperson of the Year (TSP Engineering), Apprentice/Trainee of the Year (the University of Cumbria), New Business of the Year (Furness College), SME of the Year (Cartmell Shepherd), Large Business of the Year (Brockbanks Solicitors), Family Business of the Year (Lamont Pridmore), Professional Services Business of the Year (LOCAL iQ) and Green/Ethical Business of the Year (South Lakeland District Council).

Rebecca Graves, director of associate sponsor NRL's recruitment business in Egremont who are one of the main sponsors for the event, said: "As a business our roots have been firmly planted in Cumbria since 1983, and for more than three decades our Egremont recruitment team have been committed to supporting and championing local businesses.

"As such we were delighted to be named as the associate sponsor for the 2020 in-Cumbria Business Awards. This year more so than ever, the awards will give us the much-needed opportunity to come together as a business community and celebrate the many successes that have been hard earned in the toughest of times.

"The achievements of the nominated businesses, teams and working professionals are always inspirational but with the current backdrop of Covid-19, these accomplishments mean even more.”

Taking place interactively via a live stream due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, this year’s unique event will start at 7pm.

You can help recognise the best Cumbrian businesses by signing up to watch the event here: