This is the peak time of year for charity auctions, and last week was particularly busy. It began on Monday with the Global Gift Foundation Gala hosted by Eva Longoria at the Four Seasons in Park Lane, and a star-studded gathering supported Ms Longoria by bidding £404,000 at the auction. On Thursday it was back to earth in the Crypt at St Paul’s Cathedral – a magnificent venue for a function, but a very difficult one in which to conduct an auction. This raised £17,600 for Baby Lifeline, a charity supporting the care of pregnant women and new born babies all over the UK.
Friday turned out to be a night to remember. At Grosvenor House, over 1,000 people turned up to support the legendary Sir Magdi Yacoub OM and his Chain of Hope charity. Despite being 79 years old, he continues to devote his life to saving children with heart disease. He sets up ‘missions’ that send out three heart surgeons supported by a team who work flat out around the world for 2 weeks and on average save 20 young lives. A mission costs £50,000, and twenty people in the audience each donated that amount to have a mission named after them, so that the auction in all raised £1,783,000. This magnificent sum is a quiet and at the same time loud acclamation of one of Britain’s most remarkable human beings, and brought back memories of the many auctions I’ve conducted over the years for Sir Magdi; our first, over twenty years ago, was with Princess Diana who signed tablecloths for £5,000, and raised £115,000 – a record for me at the time.
Saturday night was the turn of the Caron Keating Foundation set up in memory of Gloria Hunniford’s daughter who sadly died from cancer a few years ago. Philip Schofield made a moving speech about what it was like to work with Caron, and the auction raised £61,500. The top prize was for two people to have dinner with Sir Cliff Richard in France – and just the mention of Cliff’s name brought a spontaneous round of applause from an audience who clearly held him in the highest regard.
I collapsed into bed around midnight on Saturday having raised just over £2,260,000 for the week, to be reminded by Mary that we had a family outing the following day to, guess where, The Science Museum. But then to be fair, Mary has just been appointed Chairman. I guess I’ll be making several visits to that august body over the coming years, no doubt to conduct an auction for them. I finally fell asleep.