May 08, 2016
There was spontaneous applause last night in Exminster Victory Hall as the total for the Nayamba School Fundraising Auction was announced: £7345 (and still rising)! And that was without factoring in the match funding from an anonymous donor, which will double the takings made on the night. So not only did everyone have an amazing evening, but enough money has been raised to build three new classrooms at the school! Here’s how the action unfolded...
7pm: Looking very dapper in his tuxedo, Richard Pike greeted us outside the venue. Inside, Lily-Mae Petherick, Ellie Parfitt and Aimee Pike, directed us to a pop-up bar area, which was already busy. As I chatted to friends in glamorous evening dresses and James Bond-esque tuxes, I slightly regretted my choice of black jeans and comfy shoes, but that was quickly forgotten as the atmosphere hotted up and we discussed our favourite lots on the auction prize list.
7.30pm: I scanned the bustling main hall for my table, which was indicated by a photo of a girl named Priscilla. She is one of the children at Nayamba School, who will really benefit from being able to learn in a single-age-group class for a full day. As I introduced myself to the people on my table, I noticed that two of them, Frankie and Phil, were already bidding in the silent auction on a meal at The Galley restaurant in Topsham.
7.45pm: On stage, Vanessa Pestridge welcomed everyone. In her usual unflappable style, Vanessa was unfazed by a technical hitch and quickly ditched the juddering pre-recorded video footage to explain how every penny raised during the evening would go directly to Nayamba School. The charity has no admin costs so it can make a measurable difference to the children’s lives. A whole classroom, with flooring, windows and electricity costs just £5000 to build, so there was a real possibility that one classroom could be funded by the end of the night.
8pm: As bids for two signed Michael Morpurgo books rose to £40 in the silent auction, Asha Petherick began serving our starters: cured meats, olives, cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, delicious fresh bread and hummus. By now the bidding for an afternoon tea for two at Gidleigh Park had risen to £75, and there was an excited buzz in the room with people wondering how high they could push their offers. Back in the kitchen, Michaela Petherick and her incredible team plated up mouth-watering Spanish chicken with chickpeas and chorizo.
9pm: Figures flashed up on the big screen announcing that the amount raised so far was £1406.61! This was fantastic news as the live auction hadn’t even started yet. While my husband tucked into his desert of profiteroles, I tried to persuade him that lunch for two at the River Exe floating cafe would be more romantic than his dream prize of a round of golf for four people at Bovey Castle.
9.45pm: Richard Pike took to the stage to start the bidding for the much coveted prize of a week’s luxury holiday in Cyprus. Excitement built as the bids rose quickly. The eventual winners of the holiday were ecstatic – not only had they got a great holiday but they’d been able to make a big difference to the fundraising efforts. Back on our table, Frankie and Phil were keen to bag the highest bid for the next prize, a weekend in a static caravan at Mother Ivy Bay, and although they were pipped to the post, they were pleased they’d managed to push up the donation money.
9.50pm: The room was buzzing as people became more and more confident with their bids (which had nothing to do with the amount of alcohol being consumed!). A thirty minute acrobatic aircraft flight was snapped up by daredevil James Moore, a week’s holiday in a 5 star motor home fetched a donation of £650, and one lucky bidder bagged the unique experience of clay pigeon shooting with the Royal Marines at the prestigious Royal Berkshire Shooting School.
9.55pm: The hotly contested bidding for a week’s holiday in Portugal had offers flying around the room. The holiday villa accommodates up to ten people, has its own pool and is close to unspoilt beaches. Unsurprisingly, it commanded the largest bid of the night, with the winners just managing to sneak in at the last second with their offer of £1250 before Richard’s gavel hit the table for the third time.
10pm: A cheer went up as it was announced that the live auction alone had raised £4860! That meant that a total of £6366.61 had been raised so far. And there was still another silent auction to come.
10.30pm: My husband looked relieved as offers on the prize he’d donated with his friend Dave Collins (4 hours gardening services by David and Goliath) started to roll in. A delicious sounding iced Christmas cake brought in bids of £80, and donations were flying thick and fast for many more unique gifts.
11pm: Unbelievably, the total had reached £7345, which will convert to £14690 when match-funded! Realising that we would have almost enough to build not just one but three new classrooms at Nayamba School was an amazing way to end a really fantastic evening (and it more than made up for the fact that I lost out on the winning bid for the River Exe Floating Cafe experience!).