What an amazing evening we have just had in the company of Annie Lennox at the British Red Cross tribute evening.
Norma, Craig, Steve and myself arrived at the Guildhall in London where earlier Annie had been given the Freedom Of London in a private ceremony along with 2 other recipients. The ceremony itself was a private ceremony. The Court Beadle escorted Anni, her nominators and guests into the Court Room. The Beadle then announced Ms Lennox and read out her nominators. Annie was then invited to approach the bench and read aloud the Freeman Declaration and, upon finishing that, was asked to sign the Freeman Declaration book. Once this was done, she was offered the right hand of fellowship and was greeted as a Freeman and Citizen of the City of London.
We entered the Guildhall chamber and went down the main staircase into a champagne reception, where the Karelia String Quartet from The Royal Acadamy of Music were playing. A charity raffle was also being run which raised over £10,000 throughout the evening. You can see the incredible prizes on the programme in the memorabilia page. Before being called in for dinner we were lucky to see the presentation plaque that had been given to Annie earlier in the evening declaring her a Freeman of London. Each table was named after a song or event personal to Annie and we were seated on the Precious table.
Our compere for the evening was the ever eloquent and sophisticated English Gentleman Stephen Fry. Stephen delivered an eloquent and amusing introduction to the evening citing the many things that Annie is now entitled to do legally, such as herd her goats, park anywhere in the square mile, but most amusingly, demand a piggy back from a Police constable! He went on to describe how he feels when he hears Annie sing, “I Feel like my insides have been scooped out and I’m left like a jelly.
As starters were served Stephen introduced the African Childrens Choir, who appeared with Annie at Live 8 and also in Edinburgh earlier in the year. We we told that all 23 children were orphans as a result of HIV. As a parent myself it really struck a cord with me, just how lucky I am, but also how lucky my children are to not know such personal devestation. Something i’m sure everyone in the room would take away with them.
Stephen Fry then introduced Bob Geldof onto the stage who spoke about his friendship with both Dave and Annie, but really concentrated on how much respect he has for Annie, and how pleased he is that there is a female campaigners voice to be heard. I’m sure Annie was embarrassed by the so many wonderful things Bob said, but they were all deserved!
After some more jovial Banter with Stephen Fry, the first band of the evening, The Noisettes were introduced, a worthy replacement to La Roux who had to pull out on health grounds. Shingai Shoniwa performed 2 songs and really captured the spirit of the night as well as cleverly weaving in the lyrics to Sweet Dreams into their final track.
Brian Eno then took to the stage to talk about the work he has done with Annie, and again praised her for the way she works, mostly without fuss, and without media surrounding her every move. Annie and Brian had both attended and marched in protest against the Israeli offensive on Gaza earlier this year together.
Little Boots was next on stage and she performed solo at the piano, her first track was a new song called Echoes which was sublime, the whole room was captivated. She had first met Annie on the Jools Holland show, and she holds the accolade of the only artist to have appeared on the show twice before releasing her first album. Victoria then announced she was very nervous as she wanted to perform one of Annie’s songs, she sang No More I Love You’s which was just an incredible interpretation of the song, Annie watched enthralled. I spoke to Victoria afterwards and she said she was so nervous but she really wanted to perform it as it was one of her favourite songs.
Next on stage was TV presenter and British Red Cross supported Tim Vincent who introduced a British Red Cross film so the guests could see the widespread work the British Red Cross undertake within the UK as well as worldwide. They were first on the scene at the recent floods in Cumbria in the UK.
The second most important lady of the evening was introduced to the stage, Maria Shammas MBE. Maria is the chairman of the fundraising committee for the British Red Cross, and has been responsible for raising over £10million for the British Red Cross. Maria spoke about the humanitarian work that Annie has undertaken and how privileged they have been to work with her.
So came the main part of the evening, and Annie took to the stage. The Sing Anniversary film was played first and Annie popped up from behind the podium where she spoke so passionately about the work she does, but also the support she has from her family and friends that enable her to do so many of these things so well. After the presentation, she asked us if we wanted to hear her sing, of course there was a huge response from the audience and Annie took to her piano stool.
A Thousand Beautiful Things
There Must Be An Angel
You could hear a pin drop, for many in the audience it was the first time they had heard Annie perform, and as so often happens, we were taken on an incredible vocal journey of passion, anger, tenderness and sorrow and joy. No-one wanted Annie to stop, but we were so grateful to hear so many songs performed. Annie thanked everyone for coming and Stephen Fry took to the stage to introduce one more guest.
Kevin Spacey had joined the evening having just come off of stage at the Old Vic where he is performing in the play Inherit The Wind. Kevin again spoke about the work they have done together and Annie’s passion for her humanitarian efforts.
The evening closed with some presentations of gifts to Stephen and flowers for Maria and the evening was brought to a close. Annie looked so happy, and we took the opportunity of speaking with her. She was so pleased we had attended and she was beaming that killer smile for the rest of the night until she left.
Tonight was one of those evenings that will remain in my memory forever, a special, special evening for a very special person for all sorts of reasons, surrounded by some good friends, fantastic food and wine in one of London’s most impressive buildings.
To that I toast once again Annie Lennox. Thank you.
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