Our ’80th Anniversary’ party was held on Sunday 20 January 2008 in the Great Room of the Grosvenor House and we were determined to make it an extra special one, but no-one could have envisaged the tremendous feedback received ever since, with the party being heralded as ‘the best one ever’. Over 650 ‘special needs’ and disadvantaged children were treated to a memorable afternoon full of non-stop spectacular, amazing, fantastic, magnificent, dazzling and brilliant entertainment and the Committee should all be feeling very proud in their ’80th Anniversary’ year.
Soldiers from The Life Guards and The Blues and Royals, along with Pearly Queens & Kings, medieval costume wearers and many clowns and lovable costume characters were on hand to greet the children as they arrived, and they all did a great job welcoming them in, handing them balloons, sweets, stickers and badges. Each child was given a light tunnel pendant to wear, which looked especially great when the laser show was on. Once lead safely down the large winding staircase into the Great Room and seated at their tables, the children quickly demolished the wonderful tea laid on for them by the Grosvenor House and then 20 members of the marching Band of the Scots Guards started the afternoon’s proceedings, with the children looking on in wide eyed amazement as the Band marched up and down playing a variety of tunes. We are deeply grateful to the Band for giving up their valuable time and coming to perform for us.
The fund’s Hon. Chairman, David Lessman then made his official opening speech welcoming everyone to the party and then surprised the Grosvenor House’s C & B Technical Manager, Ben Behan, by calling him on stage and handing him a Certificate making him an Honorary Member of the Fund. This year Ben is celebrating 35 years of helping at our parties and really deserved this accolade – well done Ben! Hon. Secretary, Malcolm Shaffron, then made his usual Health and Safety speech and with the formalities over, it was time for the floor entertainment and fun to begin. Dave Davies, our brilliant DJ, then introduced ‘Diversity’, ‘The UK Street Dance Champions 2007’, who were the first act to go on and they captivated the audience with their great performance. They are a unique group of dancers consisting of mainly brothers and friends and what a nice group of lads they were. Next it was the turn of the Star Dance Group and four young couples took to the floor and expertly performed a variety of ballroom dances – just great.
It was now time for our first celebrity guests to make an appearance and to the tune of ‘Eastenders’ playing in the background, Joe Swash, Shana Swash and Kara Tointon all appeared on stage. It was Joe’s birthday that day and we presented him with a birthday cake and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to him, with Elvis Shmelvis leading the singing. Joe gives us his total support every year, especially as he and his sister had attended our parties as children and Joe said “now he is in a position to give us something back, he is very happy to” – what a great lad!! Later on we were also lucky to have ex-Eastenders star James Alexandrou join us and he joined all the other celebrities tirelessly signing autographs all afternoon.
The committee then wheeled onto the floor a very large pink three-tiered artificial cake with everyone singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the taxi drivers. The children were then told to ‘blow’ and they would get a big surprise and out of the cake popped Sam & Amanda from ‘Big Brother’ and all you could hear were the screams of the children. It was now the turn of ITV’s ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ star Damon Scott with his monkey puppets Bubbles and Stephen and what a great performance he gave – the children just loved him. Well if he had Simon Cowell’s approval that was good enough for us!!
40 members of the Songtime Theatre Arts UK then took to the floor with a brilliant colourful performance of ‘High School Musical’ and it was great the way they all interacted with the children. I really believe every child felt they were part of that High School! It was then time for our next celebrity guest to take to the stage and on came BBC London Radio’s Vanessa Feltz, accompanied by her fiance singer Ben Ofoedu, best known for being Phats & Small’s frontman. Vanessa congratulated the charity on reaching their 80th anniversary and praised very highly all London taxidrivers, describing them as “intellectuals and heroes” and thanked us all for what we do. Ben then sung ‘Happy Birthday’ to us – what a great voice he has! Young Southend magician Ryan Sholem then came on stage and handed our Hon. Secretary £50.18 which he had managed to raise at his school for us – thank you so much Ryan for this wonderful gesture.
Laser Creations then treated us to a wonderful colourful laser show, which had been used at the recent Led Zeppelin Concert at the 02 – wow, only the best for us!! It was now time for the large pink cake to be wheeled on again and with all the children being told to ‘blow hard’ again for another surprise, out popped the gorgeous Cheeky Girls dressed as Cheerleaders. They wished the fund a Happy 80th Anniversary and then gave us their usual tremendous performance. They have been attending our parties for many years and we are deeply grateful to them for all their support and for tirelessly signing so many autographs.
Whilst the Cheeky Girls were on, all the costume characters had assembled behind the stage waiting to take part in the character parade, which was tremendous and we thank most sincerely all the companies that allow these characters to come, as they are such an important part of the party. The children then grabbed their favourite characters and it was time for the mid party disco, which allows the children to have a break from the show and have a dance. 13-year old Alexander Barnett then got on stage and with his fantastic voice belted out ‘Celebration Time’ with everyone going mad on the dance floor.
It was now time for another tremendous act from ITV’s ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. They were husband and wife Rebecca & Donovan , known as CrazeeHorse, a unique and unusual acro-balance act. The audience couldn’t take their eyes off them, as they were just incredible, though I hope no-one tried to recreate their performance at home!! They had come from Paris especially to perform for us and we are so grateful to them – what a lovely couple!! Next on the floor were the Maguire O’Shea Academy of Irish Dance and again the audience were captivated by their wonderful performance and brilliant Riverdance finale. With lights lowered and accompanied by very dramatic music, our next act came on sitting in his docking station – Titan the Robot! At first he was static and the children had no idea what was about to happen, but gradually his lights started coming on and much to the amazement of the children and adults, he got up and proceeded round the floor entertaining one and all. My initial worries that he might scare the children were soon put to rest when I saw their reaction – they just loved him, especially when he started singing and dancing the cha cha!! After Titan was safely back in his docking station, the Margaret Howard Performers took to the floor and performed a tremendous dance routine, which included a variety of street dance, tap and ballet – we all loved it – an excellent performance.
Last, but definitely not least, on came our very own Bournemouth Carnival Band, and we thank them for their patience in waiting to perform. Just before they began, the Hon. Chairman surprised them by announcing that we were also making them Honorary Life Members of the fund and presented them with a Certificate. They are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year and as they had been performing at our parties for many years, they also deserve this accolade. Congratulations to you all and thank you for another wonderful performance. The Band then included the children in a conga and this led into the final Disco, during which balloons and a large blanket of streamers came down with screams of delight from all. During the Band’s performance, Hon. Chairman, David Lessman, took to the stage once again and thanked his Committee and everyone involved in making the party possible. He also thanked the children for coming, as they were the most important people and what the party was all about. Before the children departed they were lead through the wonderfully decorated grotto full of brilliant toys and came out holding on tightly to their new rucksacks and gifts, with no hands free to wave goodbye to all the waving characters. WOW – WHAT A PARTY – WHAT A SHOW!!
A giant screen had been erected this year above the stage, which enabled everyone in the Great Room to see the entertainment more clearly, especially the children, and this was a great asset to the party. The stage had been decorated with snow and reindeers, large 80th helium filled balloons and a giant Champagne Bottle with an 80th balloon and banner on it. Two 80th anniversary banners were also either side of the large screen and this all created a wonderful effect.
We were honoured to have the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councillor Carolyn Keen join us, along with the Mayor of Camden, Councillor Dawn Somper, the Deputy Mayor of Barking and Dagenham, Councillor Dee Hunt, the Mayor of Harrow, Councillor Jean Lammiman and the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Councillor Ann Jackson, who was especially pleased to see children from her borough at the party from the Pam Mason Group. We thank them all for giving up their valuable time to join us and hope they all had a great afternoon. The Hon. President, Hon. Chairman and committee would also like to extend grateful thanks to Richard Daniels of LTI, who presented a cheque in the amount of £1,500 outside the Great Room to the fund’s Hon. Chairman, David Lessman and we are also deeply grateful to Doug Sherry, MBE for his very generous donation.
A GREAT BIG THANK YOU also goes to all the wonderful characters, clowns, Pearly Queens & Kings and people in the surround, such as Alston’s Chocolate Fountains, the Police, Army, facepainters, magicians, circus teacher, balloonists, people manning the mask design, tattoo, jewellery and hair colour tables and the cartoonist and portrait artist for keeping the children entertained all afternoon. Grateful thanks must also go to all the wonderful Army and Police Cadets for all their help in keeping the children safe and manning the exits and autograph queue. The team inside the hospitality room must also be thanked for keeping all guests, entertainers, helpers and everyone fed and watered all afternoon.
We thank everyone most sincerely who helped us to make this party possible in any way and this includes all sponsors, donors, entertainers, celebrities and voluntary helpers. We are truly indebted to you all and thank you for helping us to make the party the great success it was.
As the ‘thank you’ list is so big, it really is impossible to mention everyone and we sincerely apologise to any individuals and companies we may have omitted. However, special mention and thanks must go to the following:
Our motto is – “None Walks So Tall as he who stoops to help a Child”