Just before Christmas, I held a rather unusual Tea Party at the London HQ of global ad agency Ogilvy and Mather in East London. The London Taxi Benevolent Association for the War Disabled brought along 25 WWII veterans, who regularly volunteer for the charity’s fund-raising collections, for tea, cake and a chat.
Many of the Ogilvy staff had been furiously baking cakes for a Very British Charity Cake Sale. A huge Union Jack cake, a Lemon Drizzle Cake and a Victoria Sandwich were especially popular. We also had very generous donations from Fitzbillies in Cambridge, who sent a whole tray of their famous Chelsea Buns, and Leon in Canary Wharf, who gave us a giant Carrot Cake and several bags of Brownies. Thanks to stylist Laura Sawyer, who came armed with piles of flowers and vintage china, the tea party had a thoroughly nostalgic feel. The cake stall went down a storm and we raised hundreds of pounds for the charity.
Whilst tea was on offer, many of the guests took to the bar for a pint, or, in the case of Chelsea Pensioner Roy Cadman, 90, the odd Double Bourbon and Soda. Others grabbed a dancer from Swing Patrol London and bopped along to the likes of Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington. Danny McCrudden, born 1924, can never resist a song when a microphone appears. Everyone just stopped and stared as Danny’s accapella rendition of Tony Bennett’s ‘The Good Life’ echoed through the offices.
Hanging out with the veterans, all now aged in their late 80′s and early 90′s, in an office more usually populated with young media types was quite something. It really warmed the heart to see how people of all ages and backgrounds came to chat to the veterans. A few of the younger staff had lost their grandfathers during WWII and had never before met anyone who could give them a true insight into their grandfathers’ experiences. As usual, the veterans loved meeting everyone – especially all the ‘beautiful ladies’ – and went home happy. They were so pleased that people were interested in them and that such an effort had been made on their behalf. This was all quite humbling as, on balance, it wasn’t very much effort at all.
Many thanks to: Alison and Tim from Fitzbillies, Leon, Laura Sawyer from The Detail, Lizzie, Katrina, Amy and Jo on the cake stall, the many generous Ogilvy bakers, and Peter for the beautiful vintage bunting.