The Girls gala night dazzles to celebrate five years
The Girls musical gala night celebrated five years of the musical which tells the story of the Calendar Girls.
Gary Barlow, Tim Firth, the original Calendar Girls, royalty, celebrities, tears and laughter; Monday’s Blood Cancer UK's Gala of The Girls musical had it all.
Ahead of the celebratory evening, we treated a group of patients, many of whom are now Blood Cancer UK's Ambassadors, and their families to afternoon tea in Soho. The group included seven-year-old Andrew and eight-year-old Ollie, who met at hospital whilst both undergoing treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
Strictly winner Ore Oduba, journalist John Sergeant and original Calendar Girls Angela, Beryl, Chris and Tricia joined us for cake and sandwiches, charmingly chatting with patients and their families. They helped us pour the tea to backdrop of bunting and sunflowers, inspired by the musical’s village fete scene.
Ore said: "It was a real privilege to sit with the families whose lives have been changed thanks to the tireless work Blood Cancer UK does. Tea with the original Calendar Girls? What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon!"
Ore took time out to dance in the streets of Soho with Andrew, Sissy – who had childhood leukaemia – and Angela, whose husband’s death from non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 1998 sparked the idea of the ‘alternative’ WI calendar. Much to the delight of the on looking public, the group were twirling and whirling in the street with sunflowers, a favourite of Angela’s husband John.
Kat Tsang-Orr, who is in remission from non-Hodgkin lymphoma said: “To meet so many others, whilst eating lots of cake, with different stories about how they are and have been affected by blood cancer was inspiring, and reinforces that you’re never alone.”
After their fill of cake the group headed up the ‘green carpet’ to the Phoenix Theatre towards a sea of photographers, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Graham Norton, Michael Ball, Mel Geidroyc and Phillip Schofield, as well as members of the Royal Family, Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex and His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent, Blood Cancer UK Royal Patron.
The glamour and buzz continued into the following evening – the official opening night – as we welcomed Lulu, Dannii Minogue, Pixie Lott, Martin Kemp and Leslie Joseph. Both nights generated a huge amount of noise around the musical and its support for Blood Cancer UK, including in The Sun and ITV Calendar.
The show itself is a glorious display of friendship and love, and a powerfully raw portrayal of loss and its effect on a whole community, of all ages. It was also wonderful to see the original ladies, together with John and Angela's son and daughter – Matthew and Rachel – singing their hearts out on stage at the end with the cast, Tim and Gary.
As Angela Knowles says: “It is such a joy to see the amount of money raised for Blood Cancer UK continue to grow. I know John would have been very, very proud.”