The Great Big Bursary Ball is a Great Big Hit
The money is still rolling in, but more than £58,000 has been raised so far by the Great Big Bursary Ball at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday, with all proceeds going directly to the LEH Bursary Fund.
The sell-out event on Saturday night (November 30) was attended by 360 guests, who all ate and drank, laughed, chatted and danced the night away. Before the main event guests were serenaded by the fantastically gifted Holles Singers. They sang a medley of carols in an invigoratingly chilly pitch-side reception, while guests sipped champagne and walked on the hallowed, floodlit turf of Twickenham, the home of rugby union.
The Tree of Promises – with a wonderful selection of gifts ranging from hampers to dance lessons and from spa sessions to restaurant vouchers, was a complete sell-out before guests had even taken their seats for dinner.
The silent auction had already attracted much interest and healthy bidding before the event, but over dinner, guests continued the fun, trying to outbid each other on an impressive array of lots, including exotic holidays, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and signed sporting memorabilia, on the iPads placed on every table.
Head mistress Heather Hanbury reminded guests why they were all there, as she explained that the Bursary Fund was a cause close to her heart. She said that it had been her goal since taking up the role five years ago to grow the bursary, which allows LEH to offer the opportunity of an education to any bright pupil who wishes to attend, regardless of their family’s financial circumstances.
Bursaries can prove transformational; they can open doors that many students did not dream possible. This year, the school is supporting 57 students, with 41 on 100% bursaries and it aims to double this number in 10 years. The demand for bursaries has never been higher, with a 50% increase in applications last year alone.
LEH alumna and former bursary recipient Georgia Galton Ayling gave an impassioned speech about the difference a bursary has made to her life. Georgia attended LEH from 2007 to 2013, before winning a place at Oxford University to read English Language and Literature.
She then joined a graduate programme called Teach First and now works as a teacher.
“I wanted to use my privilege to try to combat the huge inequality that exists in our education system. I feel incredibly strongly that a pupil’s academic success should not rely on their socioeconomic background.”
She said: “I can only thank LEH from the bottom of my heart for the education they provided me with. I also want to thank everyone who supports the bursary fund because you really are changing the lives of children in a way that they will never forget. Thank you on behalf of all of them.”
The celebrity auctioneer Charles Hanson, from the BBC’s Bargain Hunt and Antiques Road Trip, took the floor by storm as he worked the room, conducting a feisty live auction with eight lots, ranging from a half day at the Olympic Velodrome with a GB Cycling Gold medallist, to dinner with the Hanburys.
The evening ended with band Chocolate Charlie, who got everyone up on their feet and dancing to a succession of foot-tapping, floor-filling pop, disco, funk and rock classics. It was the perfect way to round off a wonderful evening for an incredibly worthwhile cause.