Chinese for Labour's annual fundraising Chinese New Year Banquet event has gone from strength to strength. It is no exaggeration to declare it is looked forward to by those who attend. This year we celebrated the Year of the Horse - our Patron, Cherie Blair's year.
Cherie let us know during her welcome speech that not only was she a horse herself but also a "wood" horse, which as all good Chinese present quickly worked out, having been drilled by our Tiger Mothers in the 12 times table since in utero, makes Mrs Blair close to getting her bus pass. You would never guess that by looking at her, and she was as engaged and good humoured as ever. After her speech, Cherie went around each table greeting everyone personally, which was one of the many nice touches of the evening.
For the umpteenth time, the event took place at the extremely magnificent Phoenix Palace restaurant in Glentworth Street. Owners Raymond and Angela Siu have always excelled themselves with the food and hospitality and this occasion was no different. Lobster followed duck, which both came after the nibbles and before the main course! The menu was sumptuous and I don't intend to waste any more superlatives describing it. I advise you visit one day if you cannot comprehend the quality of food I am describing. Fit for a king. Even the King from Beijing!
This year's banquet was the most successful to date! It was a fun, busy, loud affair punctuated by excellent (aka short) speeches from our Chair, Sonny Leong and distinguished invited speakers, MPs Ed Balls, Chuka Umunna and Sadiq Khan. The MCing was performed by me, not in my alter ego of Chinese Elvis, but as myself, which made a nice change for me though I found it strangely difficult not to slip into a weird Memphis-y accent when holding the microphone. Old habits, I guess...
Keith Vaz managed to elbow me out of the way to introduce Sonny, but I got the laugh of the night by noting that I had competition in the crowd on the tribute circuit; if Chuka Umunna and Sadiq Khan were to team up for an 80s tribute soul act, they could call themselves, "Chuka Khan"!
The official entertainment was provided for the second year on the trot by the delightful, talented and beautiful Kristina Lao, who played acoustic guitar and sang her own compositions, which are about to be released as an album on iTunes (no less). She did this brilliantly and was even happy to play out the end of the evening, in the style of a hotel lobby background player. Her positive attitude in this regard impressed me personally, and is indicative of the feel-good nature of the night, everyone being happy to just muck in and enjoy themselves and be part of it all, with no pretensions on show.
Looking at the photos of the evening, you can tell what a colourful and vibrant evening it was. With the speeches and excellent food & entertainment going so well, the only question remaining was whether the ulterior motive for the event – fundraising – would work as well. Suffice to say we smashed it with a new record! Great credit for this must go to Andrew our auctioneer, who excelled himself. A quick raffle hosted by yours truly concluded the night and we were finished by 10. Or near enough, which in this day and age is quite a feat. The actors & artists' table, which was a new addition to the evening, then did a superb job of hanging around, drinking up the last of the copious amounts of booze. And ... er.. that was it! A good night had by all.
Many thanks to the sponsors and donors of raffle prizes, whom I won't name check here, as they are far too many and they are listed elsewhere. Their donations and contributions were much appreciated. Many thanks must go also to the organisers of the event - as well as the distinguished speakers, VIPs and all the people whose contributions made the evening work so well, from the waiting staff to the organising Executive committee.
Lastly and certainly not leastly, many thanks to the diners and guests / supporters. Without them and their generosity this would not have been such a success. We look forward to welcoming them back next year.
ps Sonny, reserve me a space on that actors' table next time...