On Thursday 14 July, Hugh Bonneville, Merlin’s patron and the star of the hit ITV drama series Downton Abbey, hosted a spectacular gala dinner and auction at London’s Savoy Hotel to raise money for Merlin and awareness about our programmes.
The evening consisted of a champagne reception sponsored by our corporate partners, Artemis, a lovely dinner in the Lancaster ballroom, both a silent and live auction, and a Question & Answer session led by the actress Joanna Lumley, and the director of the series – Oscar-winning screen writer Lord Julian Fellowes.
380 people attended the event, including the British TV personality Carol Vorderman, representatives of both Merlin and Artemis, and the cast of Downton Abbey.
The series’ stars – including Hugh Bonneville, Dan Stevens, Brendan Coyle, Allen Leech, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter, Laura Carmichael and Jessica Brown Findlay – were out in full force, as the night became a double celebration, after the cast received a remarkable 11 Emmy nominations earlier that day.
The event was a tremendous success, raising over £ 80,000 for Merlin’s programmes around the world, much of which will go towards combating the recent and devastating famines that have hit east Africa.
Joanna Lumley and cast members took to the stage to scale up the bids for the auctions of lots, which included works of art and gold discs.
The event helped to draw the attention of some of Downton Abbey’s estimated 13 million viewers to Merlin’s work.
A wonderful evening
With your donations and this event’s help, Merlin is currently assisting over a million people across east Africa, as well as others in 11 other countries around the world. Up to 12 million people have been severely affected by soaring food prices and the worst droughts for over 60 years in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. Merlin is currently providing vitally needed primary health care, water, sanitation and nutrition services to the most vulnerable communities in the region.
Hugh Bonneville, patron of our charity since 2004, and renowned tweeter, was busy on Twitter throughout the course of the event, tweeting:
“Huge thanks to The Savoy London for incredible generosity in support of the Merlin event last night. We had a wonderful evening.”
Hugh has raised substantial funding for our programmes, recently travelling to Liberia as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo, to raise awareness about the work Merlin is conducting there, and now with this outstanding gala.
As well as delivering much-needed contributions for Merlin’s life-saving work in east Africa and elsewhere, Downton Abbey’s stars commented that the Savoy Hotel event provided a hugely entertaining break from the pressure and long hours of filming!
As Bonneville stated, it was simply a “wonderful evening”.