As I walk into the John Madejski Garden of the Victoria & Albert Museum for the champagne reception ahead of Swiss Re's bi-annual charity Gala Dinner I find myself being seranended by a trio who my husband has asked to sing Van Morrison's 'Brown Eyed Girl' the moment I arrive'... The trio were great fun ('Wandering Hands', do book them) and it was a wonderful start to a fantastic evening. We've been invited by the lovely Lorraine Sage to join her table and in Swiss Re's fundraising, so that, as CEO Russell Higginbotham explains, "their Charity of the Year Teenage Cancer Trust can continue to support the seven young people who are diagnosed with cancer every day and ensure they are treated as young people first, and cancer patients second and have access to treatment wherever they live in the UK". What a statistic and what important work.
The dinner was in the Raphael Gallery (so strange to be walking past all the exhibits in a long velvet dress) and then equally odd sitting in this magnificient hall without museum guards and hoards of visitors but filled with guests in evening dress. The young speaker from Teenage Cancer Trust had a powerful story to tell (I cried of course, many people did) and the fundraising auctions were great fun. There was huge excitement about both the Range Rover Sport and a day trip by air to the Formula 1 Grand Prix De Monaco 2014 in the Live Auction (not from my husband though as he hates cars) personally I could have been tempted by Lewis Hamilton. The screens that kept rolling with the updated bids for the silent Auction were a great idea, it was fun to see all the bids come in - the 'Be A Rock Star for a Day at the O2' and 'Work Experience with the CEO' both proving really popular. My own contribution, Lot 14, of a 'Tour of the Gherkin' for five people had several bids and went for £500 so I was pleased and had a nice chat with woman who placed the winning bid - she plans to bring her family in the summer.
The evening ended with singer/songwriter Eliza Doolittle entertaining everybody. Lorraine's husband Mark is a big Eliza fan so no-one spoke to him throughout her set, leaving him to enjoy it. (I don't think he would have answered anyway!) Carriages were at midnight.
Fantastically the Gala raised over £350,000 for Teenage Cancer Trust.