To celebrate the centenary of making a difference to the lives of visually impaired people in Hertfordshire, the Society held a Gala Dinner at the Old Palace at Hatfield House on Saturday 21st November 2015. Selecting Hatfield House as the venue and this date provided a degree of symmetry with the Society’s inception at a meeting at the Old Rectory in Hatfield on 26th November 1915.
The Chairman of the Society, Richard Seaman, has provided this report of the proceedings.
The Royal Palace of Hatfield is where Queen Elizabeth 1st spent most of her youth. King Henry the VIIIth owned the building and surrounding deer park and it was home for his children Mary, Elizabeth and Edward. Elizabeth was sent to live at the Palace when she was just three months old. She had an entourage of nurses, courtiers and tutors. Tensions grew in the family as King Henry married six times, and the rest is history! All that remains of the original Royal Palace is the Banqueting Hall.
Inside this historic building, a near capacity turnout, 140 volunteers, helpers and supporters enjoyed the splendour of the Banqueting Hall. It had been beautifully decorated to reflect the ambience of the wall hung tapestries by our volunteer Krystyna Strzelecki. The organisation of the evening was managed with precision by Justine Young. An interesting display of the Society's history and artefacts in a quiet area of the bar had been put together by our archivist Gill Richardson.
A drinks reception with live piano music preceded the three course dinner. There followed entertainment by local soprano and pianist Abigail Harris who trained at the Royal Academy of Music. She delighted us with a Puccini Aria and songs from Carousel and My Fair Lady.
Next was the raffle - with spectacular prizes generously donated by our supporters.
Master of Ceremonies and Society Ambassador, Tony Bradburn, then introduced the Marie Naffah Band, singing their inspiring internet song written by Marie called 'Blindfold'. It was a special moment as all the backing musicians are visually impaired. They had travelled a long way for their performance, the drummer Ashley being transported by his parents, together with a full drum kit, from Devon (please check-out their story on 'You Tube').
Several lots were put up for sale, ranging from theatre trips, football matches and memorabilia to tickets for local concerts and prestigious afternoon teas. Top lot was a private box for four at the Royal Albert Hall, which raised £1,300. A signed CD and DVD given by Andrea Bocelli fetched £400! In all, £6,300 was raised!
The evening continued with a disco and ended with 'carriages' into the cold November night at 1.00am.
This was the biggest event we have ever staged. We were pleased to celebrate the work of the last 100 years in a fitting manner. A final thanks to everyone. The trustees are delighted with such generosity. It was the last major undertaking of our out-going CEO Ron Pickford. We are very grateful to him for the huge amount of work he put in with his team.
A selection of photographs from the evening can be viewed in he gallery below:-
Centenary Dinner Nov 2015
Image(s) courtesy of Hertfordshire Life magazine