Lord Foster adds 'Well Done' for Gherkin Challenge 2015

Lord Foster has signed prints of The Gherkin Guide to be awarded to the highest fund raising individual and team in the 2015 Gherkin Challenge for the NSPCC. This year he has added a personal 'Well Done' to his signature. We, the event steering committee, are delighted and very grateful for his support and for the communications team Foster + Partners who ensured my request reached Lord Foster. We all hope the goal of receiving one of the signed, framed one-metre prints inspires participants to reach great heights, both on the day and in their fundraising!

Maybe you'll win this year? http://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-you-can-do/events/the-gherkin-challenge/

Presenting last year's Individual Top Fundraiser, Barinder Randhawa, with her Norman Foster signed print. Gherkin Challenge 2014. Will it be you this year?

Presenting last year's Individual Top Fundraiser, Barinder Randhawa, with her Norman Foster signed print. Gherkin Challenge 2014. Will it be you this year?

The 2014 Gherkin Challenge - Registration is Open

Registration for the 2014 Gherkin Challenge for the NSPCC is open and we already have 120 participants registered. I am about to mail all of my contacts (nearest and dearest through to everyone I have ever met) to help get this year's event to be simply the best ever.

It's happening on Sunday 7th September and you can either run or walk up the stairs to the top of the Gherkin. You can be as energetic or as relaxed as you like, some people like to race up and others like to take their time and rest at each floor. (I've done it twice before and walked up both times). This year when you reach the 40th floor you can join the NSPCC Celebration Party (drinks, snacks, entertainment) and you can enjoy the Gherkin's amazing 360˚ views across London. It will be a great day, part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of an iconic building and every single step up you take will make such a big difference to vulnerable children!

Registration is now open. We are asking for a registration fee of £20 for individuals or £70 for a team of four, with a Buy-One-Get-One-Free offer available until April 17th (Simply enter the promotional code BOGOF14 when selecting tickets).  All we ask is that each participant raises a minimum of £200.  Children over 8 years of age and accompanied by an adult can take part for just £10. There is also the option of coming up to the top via the lift. A lift pass is £60 or £100 for 2, and children under 14 come with you free of charge and all can join the party! 

Most important of all is that reaching your target of £200 will mean you raise £5 for each of the Gherkin’s 40 floors and fund 50 children’s calls to ChildLine being answered. I know that fact will keep me walking up to the top (and trying to raise more to have more calls answered!) More good news is that every participant will receive an exclusive edition of ‘360° at the Gherkin’ (by yours truly) – we are adding information about the vital NSPCC services and children in London that your fundraising will help support into a special ‘10th Anniversary of the Gherkin’ edition of the book. I have also organised two signed prints of the Gherkin Guide signed by Norman Foster, and these will be presented at the Gherkin* to the higher fund raising individual and team. (*In a special presentation in October 2014).

For more information and to register your interest in this event please visit the NSPCC Gherkin Challenge website or contact  Adam Lewis at the NSPCC on 020 7825 1389 or come back to me and I will answer any questions you have! tee@teedobinson.com

I do hope I see you on the day, whether it’s just you or you and a team – it will be fantastic! Every step we take up will make such a difference to vulnerable children! Tee xxx

Tee Dobinson

London Business Board for the NSPCC 

2013 Gherkin Challenge participants

2013 Gherkin Challenge participants

Me in 2012 - having a rest at floor 27 (it really is ok to take it steadily!) 

Me in 2012 - having a rest at floor 27 (it really is ok to take it steadily!) 

Meeting Norman Foster - March 12th 2014

"So, have you met Norman Foster?" is a question I have been asked many times over my years at the Gherkin. "I've met everyone else" I would say, or I'd tell people how he gave his personal approval for the design of 'The Gherkin Guide' (from Hong Kong) and permission for us to include his photo (from Milan) - but really, it all still boiled down to no, I hadn't met him. Until today.

It came about as I had asked Foster + Partners if Lord Foster would consider signing two prints of 'The Gherkin Guide' as prizes for the NSPCC 2014 Gherkin Challenge's top fundraisers. 'We will see if Lord Foster is willing' they reply. Then later, as it appears he is, they ask me to send the prints in. I ask to be present when he signs but they tell me, while that is a lovely idea, it is sadly not possible. I tell myself I don't mind, the prints for the charity are the main thing. (I do mind of course). 

Then everything changes. Foster + Partners send an invite asking me if I would like to meet Lord Foster while he signs the prints. That will be a yes. So now I am at the Hester Road offices, I have been before and looked out for him but I found out later he wasn't even in the country that day. I am sitting with the prints at a table overlooking the river and I can see Lord Foster in a meeting at a large oval table to my right. Last night was the RIBA interview of 'The Brits Who Made the Modern World' - Foster, Rogers, Farrell, Hopkins and Grimshaw and I hear people nearby talking about it. I saw the enthralling BBC programmes and will catch the recording of the sold out interview show later. The speakers are not sure the interviewer made the most of her exalted guests, I'll have to see what I think this evening. 

Foster walks over, it's me next. He's utterly charming, apologises for keeping me waiting and is interested in the finished copy of The Gherkin Guide which he has never seen - 'Can we get more of these?' he asks - I tell him Foster + Partners already has some, 'Good' he replies. (I am outwardly calm of course, but inwardly cheering.) 

We chat some more, I tell him my friends live in one of the two Camden houses he designed in the 60s and he likes that, then we talk a little about the Gherkin and it's continual appeal and the stair climb for NSPCC, then the prints are signed (two for the fundraisers and one for me - yes, he says he happy to sign an extra one for me) then, taking his copy of The Gherkin Guide with him,  he is gone. I roll up the prints, thank everyone and leave. I am going straight to Berwick Street to put them in the hands of Chris at Soho Frames, I arrive safely and hand them over - frames, mounts and non-reflective glass already been decided upon.

"So, have you met Norman Foster?" they ask and "Yes" I reply. "I have."

                                                           Norman Foster ©Nigel Young, Foster + Partners

                                                           Norman Foster ©Nigel Young, Foster + Partners

Back at the Gherkin with the Norman Foster signed print

Back at the Gherkin with the Norman Foster signed print

Millions of people at Gherkin for Open House London - 21st & 22nd September 2013

Last weekend I volunteered to answer questions at the top of the Gherkin for visitors during Open House weekend. I welcomed millions to the top and it has taken me a whole week to recover (well, ok, I exaggerate – it was only about 5,000 people and I did get eventually my voice back on Tuesday night…)

Day 1. The queue had already reached the end of St Mary Axe when Ben and I arrived at 7am, an hour before opening time. We chatted to everyone waiting and discovered that the couple at the very front had arrived at 6.15am. While Ben helped Jason from Searcys set up the Gherkin Guides I heard all about the success of Maggie’s Culture Crawl from three women who had made friends on the overnight route, watch the sunrise from the top of the building (the last stop on the Crawl) and stayed to chat. That was the last time I relaxed (or sat down) for the next 12 hours.

The building opened, the aim being 50 people every 15 minutes. It felt like an unstoppable ocean of visitors – I welcomed people as they came out of the lifts (congratulations you’ve reached the top of the Gherkin, thanks for queuing) , directed people (look out to the west on level 39, up the stairs to the glass dome – you must see the 360˚ view on level 40) answered everyone’s questions (Norman Foster, 7429 panes of glass), asked children if they could spot the only piece of curved glass in the building (they absolutely loved discovering it), took photos of people with their cameras for them (if you stand just here both you and your reflection will be framed by the diamonds of the building, it’s an amazing shot) and entertained queues waiting for the lifts down with facts and stories (one time for 20 minutes as the lifts stopped working!) It was a really lovely atmosphere at the top – we were all aware everyone had been waiting for ages to get in and all the Open House volunteers joined me in saying ‘Welcome to the Gherkin!’ ‘You’ve made it’ and ‘Thanks for waiting in the queue!’ as people arrived. The security staff were fantastic, smiling throughout and chatting as they brought people up in the lifts, and not a single person complained when their time at the top was over. Ben and Jason proved to be brilliant at selling books, which was just as well because I was hopeless – constantly answering questions, helping identifying things in the view or rushing to welcome another lift full of people. I spotted Victoria Thornton, the founder of Open House London, at one point and let everyone know who she was – she received a huge round of applause.

I did leave the top once when I popped out and speak to people in the queue – it took me 1.5 hours to walk around it!!! I thanked people for their patience, told them it was extraordinarily marvellous at the top and worth waiting for and that I would see them at the top to answer their questions. Of course, everyone wanted to know how long the wait was  and I could only tell them the 30 St Mary Axe team were trying to get 80 people in every 15 minutes (rather than 50) to try and fit in as many people into the building queue as possible. If they pushed for an exact time I had to say I was doing ‘queue encouragement’ and someone from the building would be round to do ‘queue management’! In the end we stayed open till 6pm, two hours later than advertised. The last people left by 7pm – I got home at 9pm and had to lie down the moment I got in.

Our first visitor of the day!

Our first visitor of the day!


Day 2. Twitter came into it’s own for me this weekend – in the early morning queue I met Natasha (@ishootandtravel ) who had tweeted the day before that the #gherkin queue had put her off, I had replied back that she should try coming early – she did and so got to the top in the first bunch of the day and took some amazing photos. There were loads of other lovely messages on Twitter throughout the day (and over the days since). The Sunday queues were really long and again the 30 St Mary Axe team extended the opening hours to try and get as many people in as possible. After the queues closed the Open House volunteers were allowed in to thank them for their work over the weekend – after that they went off to a celebratory party, I had no voice left and went home to lie down again.

The Gherkin Guides proved very popular which was wonderful, and on Monday morning someone who had visited showed hers to her boss – who immediately contacted Searcys and ordered 200 copies – hooray!

The whole weekend was great, I’m glad I did it. Right now I think I’m never doing it again!!

Our best dressed visitors! Thanks to Mum and Dad for photo permission. 

Our best dressed visitors! Thanks to Mum and Dad for photo permission. 

The Gherkin Guide sellers (in a rare moment sitting down!) 

The Gherkin Guide sellers (in a rare moment sitting down!) 

The last day of the Sierra Leone Leadership course - August 30th 2013

The delegates surprise me by coming less formally dressed, a Friday workplace tradition there as well as here. Some are wearing traditional African clothes and this prompts a discussion on where I should go to get the best African shirts for my husband and son. Alsuine (Immigration number 2) tells me he will take me to Victoria Park in the morning. The final day is packed and very successful, we have covered a lot of ground, worked at a sufficiently high level and everyone has a clear action plan for their next steps.  I give everyone a copy of The Gherkin Guide and they all say they will think of me when they see the building on the TV (I tell them to think of Norman Foster too!) The feedback is great and I let the group know they have given me as much as I have given them. Alfred takes a quick photo on my phone before Mr. Koroma arrives for the official closing and presentation – looking at it later I realise he has captured a very relaxed moment (Albert is even holding a cup of tea!) and I’m glad to have it to remember everyone by.

We hire the Hotel Mariam car and driver to give us a tour around Freetown after dark, navigating the numerous holes in the roads is very different in a regular car to travelling in a 4 by 4 government vehicle and I’m sure we do lots of extra miles just avoiding the holes! The capital is absolutely overflowing with happy, colourful, noisy life and I’m so glad I got to see it at night – the biggest crowds are at bars showing European football matches, football is massive here – they even show it at the cinema. They don’t show anything else.

A relaxed moment captured – nice to have this as a contrast to the formal photo taken shortly afterwards (nobody smiles in the formal photos).

A relaxed moment captured – nice to have this as a contrast to the formal photo taken shortly afterwards (nobody smiles in the formal photos).