Over 800 ‘special needs’ and disadvantaged children poured through the doors of the Grosvenor House, Park Lane, W1 on Sunday 18th January 2009 and enjoyed a brilliant and unforgettable afternoon. The atmosphere was fantastic and every entertainer, celebrity, carer and helper was full of passion and enthusiasm, all determined to give the children a great time and that’s just what they achieved. Outside the weather was freezing cold, but inside a huge feeling of warmth spread rapidly throughout the Great Room. There were many loveable characters and clowns on hand to greet the children as they arrived and all the children found flashing ‘glo’ novelties on their tables, which they really loved and these created a brilliant and dazzling atmosphere.
Elvis Shmelvis was first on stage and after choosing some children to accompany him as his backing singers, he sang a medley of rock-and-roll numbers and gave a great performance. Hon. President, Bill Tyzack, BEM, then went on stage and welcomed everyone, at the same time thanking all the people involved in making the party possible. London Taxidriver, Jon Whittick, then presented a cheque to Bill Tyzack for £825.00 following a sky jump he had done for his 50th birthday to raise money for the LTFUC and we thank him most sincerely for this kind donation and all the people that contributed to it. Hon. Secretary, Malcolm Shaffron then made his usual health and safety speech and it was then time for the fun to begin.
Our Hon. Life members, the great Bournemouth Carnival Band, took to the floor and gave a wonderful performance getting the children involved and ended with a giant conga which everyone joined in. Songtime Theatre Arts UK then thrilled the children with their High School Musical 2 routine, which the children loved. We were then delighted to have ‘Sky 1’ Gladiators ‘Doom’ and ‘Enigma’ join us and they made a grand entrance on a batmobile, accompanied by some members of the Bournemouth Band dressed as Batmen, with the children shrieking as they made their entrance with the ‘Gladiators’ music blaring loudly in the background. 14 year old Alexander Barnett then wowed the crowd over singing his version of Hallelujah, playing his electric guitar.
After a great laser show, there was a surprise appearance of two ‘flashing’ mobile Daleks, accompanied by ‘Dr Who’ music. When interviewed, the Daleks said “we hate children, we eat them – exterminate, exterminate” and this was greeted with loads of boos from the children, who loved them!! It was then time for the batmobile to come on again and this time the passengers were the ‘Cheeky Girls’. They performed their usual wonderful show and, as usual, the children just adored them. It was now the turn of magician and illusionist Bharat Patel and the children watched in amazement as he made his wife disappear before their eyes – pure magic! It was now time for the batmobile to come on for a third time and there were screams of delight when King of the Jungle, Joe Swash appeared. Joe and his family are great supporters of the LTFUC and we appreciate the continued help they give us every year and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their very kind donation to the fund of £1,000, which they won when appearing on Celebrity Family Fortunes.
It was now time for the children to have a dance and our mid party disco commenced and ended with a grand character and clown parade. Once this had finished, it was time for the UK Street Dance Champions 2007, Diversity, to appear and they gave a truly outstanding performance of ‘Transformer’, which left everyone gasping in amazement. Next up to entertain was ‘Strike’, the Martial Arts Duo from ITV’s ‘Britains Got Talent’ and after they had performed their routine, around 100 children joined them on the dance-floor to try some ‘Strike’ martial arts themselves. The children really enjoyed the short workshop and it was great watching them all have a go. Last on was popular Austin Drage from ITV’s ‘X Factor’ and what a great voice he has, with a huge talent for reaching out to his audience – everyone loved him, especially all the young girls – mums as well! A huge disco ended the party with hundreds of balloons coming down and the final treat in store was the children’s visit to our famous toy grotto, which even Joe and Shana Swash had fond memories of visiting as children. At this point we must thank Amanda at Jelly Cats and Gandhara Capital for their donation of toys, and Gandhara Capital for their generous donation of £1,000.
There was a celebrity luncheon being held in another part of the hotel and when they heard about our party, some of the celebrities kindly came down to say hello to the children. We were pleased to welcome John Altman and Lynda Baron from Eastenders, actress Shirley Anne Field, Bert Kwouk of James Bond and Pink Panther fame, Jean Ferguson of Last of the Summer Wine and Brian Bovell of Hollyoaks and much to everyone’s delight, ‘Bee Gees’ legend Robin Gibb also put in an appearance and we really appreciate and thank them all for sparing the time to come and see us. We were also delighted to welcome Kara Tointon and Shana Swash, both from Eastenders, who had also joined the celebrity autograph table and we must extend grateful thanks to the Redbridge Volunteer Police Cadets, who did a magnificent job manning the long autograph queue and for helping us to keep the children safe all afternoon.
We were also very pleased to welcome from Westminster, Councillor Robert Davis DL, Lord Mayor Locum Tenens, Lewisham’s Chair of Council, Councillor Barrie Anderson, accompanied by Councillor Sylvia Scott, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Councillor Muhammad Abdullah Salique, the Mayor of Islington, Councillor Stefan Kasprzyk and the Mayor of Barking and Dagenham, Councillor Emmanuel Obasohan and are deeply grateful to them all for giving up their valuable time to join us.
We thank most sincerely all the celebrities and acts who entertained the children all afternoon, but we must not forget all the wonderful clowns, costume characters, face-painters, magicians, balloonists, people on the tattoo, hair colour, mask design and children’s novelty tables, the portrait artist, the Army and Police for their displays and Police Bikes and so much more. How can we ever thank you enough, some travelling great distances to be with us. We also thank all the helpers in the ‘hospitality’ room for all their hard work in making sure everyone was fed and watered and this room also served as a ‘quiet room’ for any child (or adult) who found the noise too much and needed some quiet. We are deeply grateful to Alston Chocolates for providing the great chocolate fountain, but when I went for my annual treat at 5pm, I found to my dismay they had run out of chocolate and marshmallows – those children are so greedy!!
We would like to thank Doug Sherry MBE for his continued loyal support. However, as we have so many companies and wonderful people to thank, it is very hard to mention everyone, but special thanks must go to the following and we apologise to anyone we have omitted in error:
Grosvenor House Management & Staff, Grosvenor House Senior Event Manager – Heike Hermann, Grosvenor House Event Co-ordinator – Milan Pilat, Grosvenor House Technical Manager – Ben Behan, Soldiers from the Life Guards and Blues and Royals, Metropolitan Police – Central (Euston) Traffic Garage (acting Chief Inspector Noorman Crabb), Metropolitan Police – West End Central, Savile Row Duties Inspector Pauline McGinley, Sgt. Jack Warner of the City of London Police, Dave Davies (DJ), Laser Creations, Cadbury Schweppes, Sarah Rolls of Genie Events, Mark Cohen of TranceArt, PSLL for loan of video equipment, Martyn Cohen Photographic, Mark Cooper, Patrick J Jones & Gary Sears of Capture Images for Photographs, Soho Fire Station, Transport for London, Lt Mike Ryan & 201 Harrow Cadet Attachment, Pearly Queens & Kings, UK Garrison, London Communications, Ethel Austin, Rainbow Productions, Capespan, ColourFX, Best Imports Ltd, Nando’s Restaurants, Snazaroo, Silentnight Beds, Global Marketing Group, Kindle Entertainment, TV-Loonland, Contender Entertainment Group, Trebor Bassett Ltd, Paramount Pictures, Jetix Europe Ltd, Parthenon Entertainment Group Ltd, Arsenal FC, Southend FC, Sega Europe Ltd, Nickelodeon, Muller, Albert Bartlett & Sons (Vivaldi), Next, Hamleys, Children’s parties with Zako, Butlins, St. Johns Ambulance
Our 2008 80th anniversary party was described as the best one ever and we never dreamt that our 2009 party could match it, or be such a great success as well, but the feedback has been tremendous. Among some of our lovely ‘thank you’ emails was one from the director of NOFAS-UK, who had 20 families attending with disabled children. She wrote “For many years I was a television producer and I must say Sunday’s organisation and production values and thought, rivals any planning and production I have known. Every detail, the creativity, the fun and, most of all, the heart that you all put into the event was exceptional.” What a wonderful email for us to receive. Another email to us said “as the mother of a child with ‘special needs’ we were made to feel normal among a sea of children who were also having a wonderful time. The one thing we all had in common was enjoying a wonderful day and not our disabilities.” What a brilliant and spectacular party.
The Hon. President, Hon. Chairman and all the committee thank everyone involved in any way for helping us to put so much happiness into these children’s lives. Well done to everyone.
ps. Since writing the above, ‘Diversity’ went on to win ITV’s 2009 ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ show and perform at the Royal Variety Show. We are very proud of them and send congratulations to them all on a win they so richly deserve.