It's finally here! The Day has arrived and what a day it is! Gherkin Challenge co-founder Francesca Valli and I arrive early for Adam Lewis' briefing of the NSPCC staff and find preparations in full swing everywhere - balloons being set up at the entrance; the Plaza being transformed into an event village - Hall of Fame ready, massage tables are up, the band unpacking their instruments, hula-hoopers on their way; boxes of Gherkineer Medals, Opies Mini-Gherkins and '360 at the Gherkin' books all heading to the top; NSPCC volunteers and 30 St Mary Axe security staff all ready to go and people are starting to arrive in their green vests!
Francesca interviews the first participant to register and then we take the band and the masseurs to the top of the building so they can see it before they start work in the plaza. The London Gay Men's Choir give us a fabulous song to get everyone in the mood, I unload the 227 cup cakes my son and I made last night (we started with the idea of making enough for the children participating and just carried on till we ran out of ingredients!) St John's Ambulance staff get into position and everyone is ready...
10am - the first wave is off! It's great to see the very first participants arrive at the top (including my friend Maryan Barnard who flew in from Zurich for the event, thanks Maryan) and they just keep coming, all day long. I sign over 800 of the special NSPCC copies of '360˚ at the Gherkin' adding in congratulations 'you've done it!' messages. Lots of people wanted their time included too, while for some it was just 'I conquered the Gherkin!' I loved it when the Dynamic Duo arrive and I get to write 'Boy Wonder beats Batman to the top'. All day I see people I know, Chris Day and Mark Luboff (fellow steering committee members) and Clever Voice's Keith Hawkins, my friends Mary and Natalie and I get to enjoy meeting people that I'd chatted with on the Gherkin Challenge Facebook page. The team from William Davis arrive all smiles, "I loved it" says Emma, "Well not the stairs bit, that was horrible..." At one point I announced to all on level 39 that Chris Lamb had done 3 climbs with 2 more to go and got a huge cheer for him and his Mum! (Yes, he was doing 5 Gherkin Challenges in one day...)
My son arrives in the last wave of the day, along with my husband, the two teams from the Daily Telegraph (Travel and UltraTravel) and lots of family and friends, really great to see everyone (couldn't chat much though - still signing books!) Delighted to say that the St John's Ambulance people had nothing to do except smile and encourage people to drink water at the top.
200+ photos on the NSPCC Gherkin Challenge 2014 Facebook page:
Some of the things I heard during the day:
Thanks to everyone who participated in the 2014 Gherkin Challenge for the NSPCC and to all the many, many people who supported it and made it possible.
You all did something AMAZING TODAY!
PS - We have already beaten the event fund-raising target of £150,000.. the NSPCC will announce the final total when all the sponsorship money is in.
(Update 27.10.14 - £199,000 raised)