An evening of style and sophistication awaited guests celebrating 25 years of Sue Ryder providing incredible care at Thorpe Hall Hospice in Peterborough.
The James Bond-themed ball ‘Licence to Thrill’ was organised by ‘The Bond Girls’, a small group of volunteers on a mission to create something truly memorable while raising awareness and much-needed funds for the charity. With total running costs of around £2.8 million, Thorpe Hall Hospice relies heavily on voluntary fundraising to help support and develop the wonderful care and services they provide to patients and families.
The 25th Anniversary Ball was an opportunity to do just that as there are few buildings anywhere in Cambridgeshire as stunning as Thorpe Hall’s 17th century mansion house. With the generosity and goodwill of individuals and local businesses the ‘Bond Girls’ set about transforming the courtyard, Grade I house and gardens to provide a striking backdrop for the main event.
Over 330 guests were greeted on arrival by a fleet of Aston Martins from local owners across the county while two of the latest Maserati cars framed the stone-pillared entrance. As the iconic Bond theme played, a white searchlight lit the front of the mansion house moving from side to side. The effect at dusk was breathtaking, prompting a number of local residents to walk up the drive and ask security staff if a film was actually being made!
Inside the mansion house, the guests walk through to the gardens was adorned with floral displays featuring iconic James Bond characters and classic posters from the films. From the terrace steps a 50ft red carpet stretched out across the lawn towards a specially constructed marquee.
With guests dressed to impress, two professional photographers captured their entrance on the red carpet in true film premiere style. They were met at the drinks reception entrance by a costumed character wearing an outfit similar to the one worn by Daniel Craig in the pre-title sequence of SPECTRE standing next to a full-size limited edition signed poster from the film, kindly donated by Eon Productions.
The welcome drinks reception was sponsored by Warner Edwards, creators of award-winning artisan gins who’d mixed the perfect martini cocktail for the occasion, complemented by Intermezzo String Quartet playing a selection of Bond theme songs. Guests were able to study the seating plan before venturing into the main marquee to find 32 tables stylishly decorated and themed around a different Bond film, 007 actor or memorable character.
Master of ceremonies Steve Allen, (born at Thorpe Hall when it was a maternity hospital) set the tone for the evening with the opening on-stage introductions and invited Peterborough MP, Stewart Jackson to say grace. Following a three-course meal, Peterborough’s former X Factor contestant, the ever popular Nicole Lawrence, got the entertainment off to a sensational start. Renditions of the Bond anthems ‘Diamonds are Forever’ and ‘Goldfinger’ showcased Nicole’s exceptional voice which she continued with a string of popular songs, walking table to table and adding some well-timed ad-libs.
After dinner Bond Girls Judith, Aimee, Rachelle, Caroline and Marie took to the stage to say a few ‘thank you’s’ and showed a short video highlighting the incredible work of Thorpe Hall Hospice… not just the practical aspect but the ongoing emotional and spiritual support offered to families.
Jeremy Chew took the role of auctioneer with bids coming thick and fast. Unlike the film Octopussy, there wasn’t a Faberge egg on offer and sadly no Roger Moore to enliven the proceedings! However there was plenty to tempt people with a fantastic selection of lots split into live and silent bids.
Star lot was the limited edition SPECTRE poster, with other popular items including use of a Hunstanton beach hut, tickets to Loose Women Live, weekend use of a Maserati Grand Turismo Sport, a skiing holiday and a signed copy of ‘All About Bond’ a collection of behind the scenes movie images taken by veteran photographer Terry O’Neill, the only one to have photographed all the Bonds. The night ended with a casino – black jack and roulette – and dancing to live band Vision and Barrie John Disco before guests made their way home in the the early hours.
Speaking on behalf of The Bond Girls, Judith Wojtowicz paid tribute to the team and all those who played their part. She said: “The Sue Ryder Hospice is held in the highest esteem throughout Peterborough and beyond. The Ball was designed not only to honour this important milestone in Thorpe Hall’s history but to raise much-needed funds and awareness of their work. We thank every single person who helped us in any way… sponsors, businesses and individuals who donated prizes, time and resource to create something very special.”
Written by ESP’s esp-ionage reporter.
Photos: ACS Photography and Chris Lowndes Photography