Annual 'Eccentric of the Year' Award
The phenomenon of practical eccentricity has been an object of great interest over the centuries to an innumerable number of people, both in the UK and abroad. From the time immemorial, the contests were held, where the most unusual and outstanding characters were able to demonstrate and compare their skills and talents, or just to express their unorthodox views and to find their followers!
At the Eccentric Club, this tradition, allegedly, goes back to 1780s-1800s when the club members were inviting particularly unusual and entertaining characters to their special, ‘members only’, dinners and, after being entertained by them, awarded them the annual membership of the club and raised numerous toasts to their various talents.
The entire list of them is now unknown, but a particularly popular at the time ‘unusual entertainer’ - Mr Romeo Coates - was one of them.
In the 20th century, the old club in Ryder Street had a similar custom, but the elected 'Eccentrics of the Year' were all chosen from its own members. Most of the winners were also awarded Honorary Life Membership. Some of the most popular in the London clubland names of the influential eccentrics holding this prestigious title are now, sadly, forgotten: Danny Hanifan (1977), Geoffrey Hearns (1978), Eric Frais (1979) and many others...
Present club inherited this tradition through its member No.001 – Lyndon Yorke, an aerial surveyor and a mechanical follyologist from Buckinghamshire, – who won the title of the Greatest British Eccentric in a fun / publicity contest organised by Kelloggs in 2001. It was him who initially suggested the idea of reviving the Annual Award Ceremony, which received a unanimous vote of approval. Bringing back such an important annual event allows those perceived by others as eccentrics to showcase their originality and individuality and the club members to raise funds for their charitable commitments as well as to have some fun. His victory in Kelloggs contest prompted the Committee to resume holding the elections of the 'Greatest Eccentrics of the Year', allowing non-members and outsiders to be considered along with the club members.
The main Rule of the contest required that, apart from being famous as eccentric characters with eccentric hobbies or pursuits, all candidates were to be known for the public benefit of their activities.
Thus, in 2009, the contest was won by Barry Kirk, also known as 'Captain Beany', an orange painted self-proclaimed superhero from Port Talbot in Wales – for bringing a sense of hope, optimism and positivism to his local community. Captain Beany is a popular local eccentric character raising funds for many local and national good causes and exploiting his local ‘superhero’ status to help his community.
The same year Lord Bath refused to be considered for the award saying that he is 'sick and tired of being perceived an eccentric'. His withdrawal added to the Rules of the contest ‘Lord Bath Rule’ (No.2). He nevertheless dined with the members of the Eccentric Club in 2012 and was awarded Honorary Life Membership.
In 2012 the title of the Greatest British Eccentric was awarded to a musician and a singer of an alternative musical genre of ‘chap-hop’ – Professor Elemental (Paul Alborough).
In 2013 the title was won by Peter Batkin – a businessman, a film maker and an eccentric traveller, known for his charitable work, a member of the Eccentric Club until his untimely demise in 2018.
In 2014 it was awarded to 'Incy Wincy Spider' (Adrian Gary Prooth) – a famous London socialite and an eccentric, known for his charitable efforts as well and being widely supported by the most diverse groups of London's social circles.
In 2015 Henry Blofeld OBE was announced as the Greatest British Eccentric – the judges took into account his varied and eccentric life, books and charitable work. He is also very popular with the Eccentric Club Cricket Team.
Next contest is being planned to take place on 17th April 2020.
There are some RULES, but not too many:
1) Contestants cannot propose themselves, they must be nominated by someone else who views or considers them somewhat ‘eccentric’. The contest is open to the persons of any gender and nationality, but not younger than 18 years of age.
2) Contestants are expected to agree to participate in the contest, consent to others voting for them and to do their best to promote themselves as worthy candidates for the title. If they refuse to participate, the Committee cannot force them to do so and would have to drop them as the candidates.
3) However unusual the contestants are, their originality perceived by others as ‘eccentricity’ must be of a positive and socially valuable nature – in other words, it must comply with the club’s main principle ‘Nil Nisi Bonum’ – ‘Nothing but Good!’. Their local community, nation, mankind must benefit in some way from their ‘eccentricity’.
4) The number of supporters nominating their candidates will be taken into the account, however, the Eccentric Club Committee and our impartial independently invited Judges, renowned experts in the matters of eccentricity, shall have the right to review the character of all proposed candidates.
5) The Winner (or the winners – in various categories) shall be invited to the glamorous entertainment-packed Award Ceremony in London, where they will receive officially the Certificate of their Title, the Trophy and a complimentary bottle of champagne.
Come and join us for this one-of-a-kind celebration, where, along with some famous names, you will discover brand new figures, equally unusual and unique in their views and ways, and certainly extremely popular in some circles for what they are!
In the times, when we talk so much of re-discovering and re-inventing our national and cultural identities, it is good to be reminded of the brave and original characters, of the eccentrics who are the salt of the earth!
…We'll rise superior to Fate's decree,
Old Time defy and "everlasting" be;
And though this mansion crumble and decay,
Tho' heroes fall and kingdoms pass away,
Yet thou, amidst the wreck unhurt shalt be
Immortal Spirit - Eccentricity!..
(J.G.Jones, Member of the Society of the Eccentrics, London, 1803)