Bushfire Aid in London

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to blog, but it’s been one heck of a week.  First of all the traumatic events of last weekend with the Victorian Bushfires kept I think every Australian in the world transfixed with horror.  I know I spent most of Saturday evening and all day Sunday listening to radio and watching #bushfires on twitter to see what was going on.  There were some instances where BBC seemed to have more up-to-date news than what was being released by ABC radio and Australian media – perhaps because Australian media were being so careful not to overestimate casualties of the disaster. ‘Casualties’: it seems such an inappropriate word.  Even now there is no clear sense of the number of fatalities from these fires.  The closest estimate is that there will eventually be well over 200 deaths directly attributable to the bushfires on 6-7 February 2009.  And there are countless others both directly and indirectly affected by the fires – it’s sheer devastation.

And for those of us perhaps not directly, but emotionally affected by what has happened, there is an enormous need to reach out and assist.  And in that spirit, I and a couple of other ex-pats based here in London felt it was necessary to pull together an event in aid of victims of the bushfires.  On Monday morning it was an idea of Justin Kerr-Stevens.  By mid afternoon, the RSA had come on board and the wonderful Belinda Lester joined our small crew in getting an organisational crew together to mount the event.  I developed a registration site with eventbrite and  6pm Monday, we had our first registrations.  It was a slow start and Justin and I were understandably nervous when at 6pm on Tuesday we had only 50 registrations for a 220 person event.  But somehow by Wednesday morning, news of the event had begun to spread, the Australian High Commission had become involved and suddenly we were being overwhelmed from all sides with offers of assistance, with registrations and with offers of goods for raffles and auctions.

We were booked out by the end of the day on Wednesday and had another 50 on the waiting is by lunchtime on Thursday.  And now at the end of the day we are still going, getting sponsorships, managing attendances and ensuring that everyone who has offered anything by way of assistance is acknowledged and trusted.

I sent out the below email to attendees an hour ago.  It helps to show just how many people have come to the party.  In total there are now over 250 people who will be at the event during the course of the evening.  And I just want to say how grateful I am to the fantastic efforts of Belinda and Justin, the RSA, Hans Van Leewin at the High Commission, and everyone else who has made this event happen.  I can only hope we are able collectively to make a difference for those poor people who have to face the world with their homes, friends, families and livelihoods – gone.

Dear all,

We’re writing to you as attendees of the Australian Bushfire Relief Evening being held at the RSA tomorrow night, to remind you of the details and to let you know the order of proceedings and what’son offer at the event.

First of all, the event is being held at the RSA at 8 John Adam Street, London, WC2N 6EZ.  You can see the Google Map of the location on the registration page of the event at http://bushfireaidlondon.eventbrite.com/.  The closest Tube stations are Charing Cross (Bakerloo, Northern lines) and Embankment (District, Circle and bakerloo lines).  John Adam Street is parallel with the Strand on the river side.  Please enter via the John Adam Street entrance to the RSA – this is marked with an RSA flag on the street.  Once you arrive, the staff at the RSA will direct you to the Vaults.

The Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Mr John Dauth, is opening the formalities of the event at 6:30pm sharp.  He will be followed by the Agent General of Victoria, Mr David Buckingham, and Sir Nicholas Young, Chief Executive of the British Red Cross, who will be speaking for the Australian Red Cross Victorian Bushfires Appeal.

Once the formalities are concluded, we will be holding a raffle and auction of some fantastic goods! We will also be taking cash donations and will have a facility set up for you to make direct credit donations to the Australian Red Cross if you prefer.  You will be issued a receipt for all donations.

AUCTION ITEMS
– Signed Wallabies Jumper from November 2008 European tour, per courtesy Lachlan Searle, Marketing Manager, Saracens Rugby;
– 2 tickets to the England v Australia NatWest One Day International to be held at Lords on Sunday 6 September, per courtesy the England and Wales Cricket Board;
– 4 premium tickets to the Australia versus Ireland AFL International Rules game, being played in October, per courtesy Patrick Keane, AFL.

RAFFLE PRIZES
– Vilis, 20 cases of pies;
– Dr. Le Winn’s Private Formula, packages of skincare worth £200 each
– A dozen bottles of wine per courtesy of Agent General of Victoria, David Buckingham
– 2 x £50 hampers from the Australia Shop;
– Gourmet Burger Kitchen vouchers;
– £50 John Lewis Voucher;
– Mixed dozen case of wines from Coldstream and Seppelt wineries, per courtesy Fosters
– Two pairs of tickets to the Harlequins vs Manly game on the 22nd of Feb, per courtesy of TNT Magazine;
– Signed Saracens Rugby shirt, per courtesy Lachlan Searle, Marketing Manager, Saracens Rugby.

Please note that EVERY PENNY of the money you donate or raised in raffles and auctions will go to the Red Cross Bushfires Appeal.

We have received generous sponsorship for catering from ANZ Bank and from Westfield London. The cash bar (also subsidised by ANZ and Westfield) will be serving beer, wine, basic spirits and softdrinks.

NOTE: If you find you are unable to attend the event for whatever reason tomorrow, please let me know via email at joanne@joannejacobs.net or by phone on 07948 318 298. We have a long waiting list of people who would like to attend, so if you cannot attend, please ensure you give others the chance.  And remember, you can always donate online to the Red Cross at
https://www.redcross.org.au/Donations/onlineDonations.asp


Finally, thank you so much for supporting this event.  We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the generosity of all involved and we do hope that collectively we can raise enough to make a substantial contribution to this important Appeal.

We look forward to meeting you tomorrow night.
Kind regards,
Joanne Jacobs, Justin Kerr-Stevens & Belinda Lester

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