19th January 2007 at 00:00
Beware letting comedians loose at education events. The actor Chris Barrie, who played the irritating leisure centre manager Gordon Brittas in The Brittas Empire, appeared to slip in and out of character when hosting the glitzy black-tie ceremony at the Bett trade show in London. He pulled silly faces through the duller speeches and mocked some of the award-winning technologies.

"This product has been commended for its 'hierarchical pedagogical structure'," he said. "But it all sounds like bullshit to me."

The audience was divided over whether his antics were inappropriate or provided much-needed relief. "It was pretty cruel pulling faces," one said.

"The guy making the speech didn't know why the audience was laughing."

The trade show also provided its usual opportunities to freeload. Last year everyone was giving away squidgy rubber stress-balls. This year we declined Etech's offer of a free pound;189 video iPod, but couldn't say no to...

yo-yos. RM, Intel, Nelson Thornes and the NASUWT all offered slim plastic ones, while software publisher Riverdeep went for untreated wood.

Huw Lewis, Riverdeep's operations manager and yo-yo expert, admitted that while his wooden yo-yo demonstrated the "honest-to-goodness solidity" of his company, the ugly white Nelson Thornes yo-yo was better for tricks such as walk-the-dog.

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