Over 200 people who could read and write, including one guest who learnt to read at 25, attended and supported a charity ball at the May Fair Hotel on Monday 2nd June. Over £170,000 was raised in total in aid of Beanstalk, an exceptional children’s literacy charity. The event was sponsored by wealth management firm Vestra Wealth LLP, without whose personal support the event could not have taken place.
Beanstalk is also extremely fortunate to have as their patron, The Duchess of Cornwall. As a mother and grandmother, she is extremely familiar with the energy and expertise that Beanstalk generates to help tackle illiteracy in the classroom.
The ball, a first for the charity, aims to continue raising money for its work in supporting children who struggle to read. Last year Beanstalk’s worked with 7,350 children across England in over 1,100 schools through the help of over 2,300 reading helpers. The charity aims to help 18,000 children struggling with their reading by 2018 and urgently needs more volunteers.
Following a champagne reception, guests enjoyed a delicious dinner with a whirlwind of magical entertainment, under the aegis of Toby Young, founder of the West London Free School and Master of Ceremonies. As ever, Lord Archer was a superb auctioneer and spun his own magic to elicit some fantastic bids!
Sue Porto, Beanstalk’s CEO, said: “It was fabulous to witness the fantastic generosity and spirit on the night. Funds raised will help to drive the charity forward so that we can reach out to more children, to ensure that no child grows up without the skills they need to read, grow and succeed.”
David Scott, founding and senior partner of Vestra Wealth, said: “We are proud supporters of Beanstalk, having started a four-year commitment as their corporate partner in 2011. We decided to sponsor tonight’s function to ensure that all the money raised could go directly to Beanstalk. We hope that you will join us in supporting a very worthwhile charity that will change many lives and give young people a foundation to build on.”
Guest of honour HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands called upon Mayor Boris Johnson to team up “on a European bicycle tour” with Beanstalk and herself as the founder of the Reading and Writing Foundation to expand the success of the ‘Get London Reading’ campaign across other European countries.
She said: “Time has come for such a campaign since it is a shocking fact that even today one out of every five Europeans – both adults and young people – does not have the literacy skills to participate fully in society. Only joint commitment across society, ages and political timetables can create the literate environment and the quality of learning we need to ensure people are happy, healthy and employable.”
Boris Johnson responded very positively to the invitation of the Princess, embracing her wish to raise awareness on literacy. Boris shared a personal anecdote of being left behind in the reading stakes when, at the age of six, he was told that his younger sister Rachel was a better reader. With typical insouciance, Boris blamed the reading material (Peter and Jane) and revealed it was ‘The Cat in the Hat’ that inspired his love of reading.
The Mayor also said: “I want every child in London to leave school with the ability to read and although the situation is improving, still 1 in 5 children finish school without the basic literacy skills necessary to set them up for life. Through my education programme we are working to raise attainment levels further and charities like Beanstalk have a vital role to play.”
“I am delighted to see how much money has been raised by Beanstalk’s recent charity ball, which will help hundreds more children, and I hope supporters continue to dig deep to ensure the continuation of this excellent work.”
In an emotional concluding speech, Paul Connolly, who suffered abuse in an East London children’s home and who only learnt to read at the age of 25, urged guests to support Beanstalk in their efforts to give children the opportunities that his peers tragically missed out on.