THIS has truly been an inspiring year. First it was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, then the Olympics and Paralympics – and this month it was time for an inspirational event closer to home – the INSPIRE12 Business Awards.

About 500 people attended this year’s awards finale, held at The Hampshire Court Hotel, in Chineham, for the second year in a row.

The indoor tennis courts were transformed into a magnificent venue worthy of the top awards night which celebrates the best of north Hampshire’s businesses.

Before settling down to the business of the evening, guests were able to mingle and network at a champagne reception.

They then enjoyed the evening’s entertainment, watching an acrobatic display, and took part in a Heads or Tails game that raised £3,700 for three hospices which provide specialist palliative care for people in the region – St Michael’s Hospice, in Basingstoke, the Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice, in Farnham, and The Countess of Brecknock Hospice, in Andover.

The competition was won by Sarah Cardew, a partner at Basingstoke-based solicitors Penningtons, who donated her £200 winnings to The Gene Therapy for Cystic Fibrosis Appeal.

The awards in 12 categories went to companies and individuals from across the north Hampshire area.

Phil Wilding, managing director of building firm Wilding Butler, which sponsored the Business of the Year category and who is chairman of the INSPIRE steering committee, said: “This year has been more difficult than any other year to choose the winners. And for those that have won, you are exceptional businesses.”

Compering the evening were Felicity Edwards, managing director of not-for-profit organisation Destination Basingstoke, which organised the event, and Gazette Newspapers editor Mark Jones. And, as Mark said, the room was full of winners.

He told the audience: “Although there can be only one winner for each of the 12 awards, all of the finalists should be proud of their success in reaching tonight’s awards finale.

“Saying that you are an INSPIRE12 Business Awards finalist is a badge of honour and I would encourage you to wear it with pride.”

Felicity thanked the events and awards sponsors as well as The Hampshire Court Hotel, who served the 500 guests with a three-course meal in just over an hour.

“It’s been yet another great year as the word spreads about the INSPIRE awards,” said Felicity. “Businesses have quite simply learned that INSPIRE is worth entering.

“Destination Basingstoke was proud to be able to manage the event again this year. INSPIRE continues to grow in size and stature, the number of guests and nominations are record-breaking, and the quality of winners goes to show that north Hampshire really is a place that works for businesses, and where businesses succeed.”