Haileybury’s marketing director and Drama teacher, Tana Macpherson-Smith, was surprised to receive an invitation to attend a small reception at 10 Downing Street during the Easter holidays. This is her account of the experience:
My trip came at the invitation of Cherie Booth and The Children’s Trust. The Prime Minister’s wife opened a new building at The Children’s Trust a year ago and had been hugely impressed by the work undertaken at this Surrey-based charity that cares for children who acquire severe head injuries as a result of accidents or illness such as menengitis. What they achieve with their young patients is truly remarkable and, in some severe cases, the recovery is miraculous.
I reached the black gates that herald the entrance to this famous dwelling, feeling somewhat nervous but was immediately struck by the warmth of reception from the moment I arrived at No 10; from the policemen at the gate and in the security "tardis" to the gentleman waiting to greet me as the famous black door opened effortlessly when I rang the bell. Having relinquished my mobile phone to pigeon hole number 4, I took the time to take in the magnificent collection of pictures of all the Prime Ministers that lined the bright yellow sweeping staircase up to the first floor reception rooms. The artwork throughout the building was stunning and deserved more time than I was able to give.
The reception was held to honour supporters of The Children’s Trust and its patients, and to launch their new £7 million appeal. Guests included Gail Porter who has supported the Trust for many years, those who have given of their time and energy to raise funds for the Trust, heads of corporations who might just consider supporting the appeal and Alfie, one of the Trust’s former patients whose remarkable story of recovery has inspired many pupils at Haileybury to support the School’s fundraising efforts. Haileybury pupils have raised about £40,000 for The Children’s Trust over the past few years.
Wine and canapes were served throughout the evening and I had only been in the reception room talking to fellow guests for a few moments when I was invited to move round the corner for a private audience and photograph with Cherie Booth, who was remarkably relaxed and easy to talk to. Once she had commented on my jacket (!), conversation blossomed when I told her I had a message of good wishes from her "other" Tony; my brother-in-law ran her law Chambers for some years and she had always referred to him as her "other" Tony!
I met some extraordinarily driven and interesting guests as the reception continued. Cherie Booth circulated among the group before giving an inspiring speech about The Children’s Trust and their work and calling for our support for the new appeal. At this point, she invited us to make the most of the facilities and to relax and enjoy the surroundings whilst she went off to find her husband, who had just arrived back from his travels, tired, hungry and waiting for dinner! A short while later we were given a suprise invitation to see the Cabinet Room where we were treated to an hilarious introduction to life within those walls. The changed shape of the Cabinet table was explained (to allow for easy viewing by all participants), we were given the history of the pictures, the silver and codes of conduct within those Cabinet rooms.
The evening proved a most enjoyable event; I felt enormously honoured to have been invited and thank both Cherie Booth and The Children’s Trust for allowing me the opportunity to step inside the famous door and take a peek at life inside No 10 Downing Street.