The Soldiering On Through Life Trust Awards is one of my favourite nights of the year. Which is weird, as it generally involves tears. A group of deserving ex-military men and women are nominated by various charities to recognise and honour their outstanding achievements, despite having suffered horrible injuries during their service. Sometimes those achievements are heroic; sometimes they’re simply inspirational and heart-warming.
This was my third year celebrating the awards and it just gets better each year. I work with an amazing team that organises and delivers a perfect function and we’ve become somewhat of an extended family. I had no previous military ties, so my work here has been an eye-opener in so many ways.
The evening at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel is always glitzy. Celebrities present the awards and dance the night away – well the part from 11pm onwards anyway. It was my idea to invite Christopher Biggins to co-present with Anne Diamond this year – one of my (rare?) good ideas that the team snapped up. I’d seen him perform at last year’s Life after Stroke Awards – another charity close to my heart. He’s a lovely man – what you see is what you get. It’s a quality I really like in people. Many of the award-winners share it too; after everything they’ve been through they have no time for pretence.
Antony Costa headlined the entertainment – and he was great! The dancefloor was packed during his whole set. I didn’t remember that he and Blue sang ‘One Love’ so I was hugely excited to be able to sing along. That’s what comes of attending a Taittinger champagne reception – a verging-on-drunken-dancefloor-karaoke! That reception was extra special for me too, as Oliver performed magic there to a crowd of 500.
But celebrities aside, the stars of the evening were the amazing award winners, who blew everyone away with their incredible stories of courage and inspiration. I spent my time during the ceremony tweeting their photos and posting onto Facebook as they proudly accepted their trophies. If you’re interested, you can see their videos here. Spare ten minutes for them if you can; grab a coffee and a tissue and get comfortable.
I spent Sunday night at a charity event too – albeit on a smaller scale and without the razzamatazz! It was bingo!! I attended that one with my cousin Sharon so it was just as much fun. And I won a fiver! Sharon and I grew up being the slowest eaters in the room (and made no exception on Sunday) – but we were both pretty quick when faced with chocolate. One of our enduring shared memories is a family road trip where we spent six hours eating sugar sandwiches and singing Seasons in the Sun. I’m lucky to have found a friend who can play that on the guitar, so we’re looking forward to an opportunity to do that again. Possibly at a party we’re both invited to next month…
While I was doing my stuff on Sunday, Marion, my lovely social media assistant, was celebrating her birthday. So I’m taking this opportunity to say happy birthday and thank you so much for all your hard work! You do a fab job and it’s greatly appreciated!! When Sharon and I get that guitar we will happily serenade you with a rendition of Terry Jacks – or maybe something a little more cheerful. Julia and Co, probably.
As tempting as it is to end with Terry Jacks’ lyrics, the awesome people I met on Saturday night are too inspiring for a dreary song. These words by Heather Small and Peter Vettese are far more appropriate: ‘I step out of the ordinary, I can feel my soul ascending. I’m on my way, can’t stop me now and you can do the same! What have you done today to make you feel proud? It’s never too late to try – what have you done today to make you feel proud? If you’ve done something that makes you proud, tell me here – I’m always happy to share: @WeekendWitch.