Being from Newcastle I’m not really used to fancy hotels, red carpets and champagne. I’m more a Premier Inn, coffee stained carpet and beer kind of bloke, but for the Zoom charity Auction at the Intercontinental Park Lane London in aid of Great Ormond Street, it was time to scrub up!
So with my suit on, my hair combed to perfection and my girlfriend by my side we made our way to the gala to rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in the world of motorsport.
On arrival we were greeted by a red carpet and a sea of photographers. Flash after flash snapped by until we set foot on the carpet and the gaggle of men and women looked at one another in bewilderment. I’m assuming we weren’t very high on their ‘must photograph’ list.
Once inside the ballroom we were approached by a waiter with a selection of wine, champagne and german beer. Weirdly enough I decided to go down the champagne route. In all honestly I didn’t think giving champagne to people involved in motorsport was a good idea considering all they ever seem to do is pour it in each other eyes. I was expecting a Laurel and Hardy style champagne fight but to my disappointment it never happened.
Now the red carpet, canapés and champagne formalities had been dealt with we went and had a look at the pictures that were up for auction.
Some pictures were superb and extremely thought provoking, while others were ‘different’. It didn’t matter though because all the money raised was going to a fantastic charity so it didn’t matter if people were buying something fantastic like Marrusia team boss Graeme Lowdon’s hand sketched drawing of Ayrton Senna or something less inspiring like . . . lets not name names.
As the auction was drawing closer many of the big guns started to arrive. Bernie Ecclestone, Christian Horner and Mrs Horner to be, Geri Halliwell all turned up fashionably late. Eric Boullier, Adrian Newey, Claire Williams and of course Suzi Perry and David Croft were also in attendance.
The live auction began and the pictures were flying out. I had every intention of ‘getting involved’ but my opening bid of £300 for Graeme Lowdon’s Senna sketch was eclipsed in milliseconds by Mr Ecclestone at which point someone at the front thought it was wise to take him on. “Big mistake” said the auctioneer but as it turns out the rogue stranger won the piece for £1,400. It seems Bernie’s pockets aren’t as deep as we all think – he’ll be signing on next.
Every single picture was making good money and it was great to see the F1 community come together, as they always do, for people in need. I was however coming down with something and it had taken over my entire body. I don’t know the medical term but I would call it auction fever. I had to purchase something.
And then it hit us! The silent auction was our chance at owning something unique and helping to raise money.
The silent auction had photos from Jules Bianchi, Daniel Ricciardo and Vijay Mallya among others. The one we had our eyes on though was one from none other than Michael Schumacher.
We began with a modest bid, I won’t tell you how much, and we left the table because the auctioned wouldn’t be closing for over an hour. When we returned thirty minutes later we had been out-bid so we upped our price. Once again we left the table for twenty minutes before returning and low and behold we had been outdone again. This was war.
With five minutes to go we put in another high bid. Our bidding foe however was not happy, “who’s this Aaron!” she yelled. To which I replied: “that’s me!”.
“How much do you want this?” She said.
“A lot,” I replied. To put her off I said I would bid an unbelievable amount to acquire the photo. What ensued was what I can only describe as a Mexican stand off and with just seconds to go the woman finally conceded defeat and we won a one of a kind photo taken by Michael Schumacher.
I won’t disclose how much we paid for the photo but I will tell you that it felt great to not only play an active role in the success of a great evening, but to know the money we spent will go to such a worthy cause is a feeling that’s hard to put into words.
It’s hard to sum up how special the evening was because it was quite overwhelming in all honesty. Yes it was amazing chatting to people you admire and see on TV most weekends. Yes it was amazing winning the silent auction and taking home a little piece of history that will sit proudly above our fireplace. And yes of course I enjoyed the free champagne, the fancy food and the VIP feeling.
But what was more special than all of that was the fact that people, from Bernie Ecclestone to me, were all there to support Great Ormond Street Hospital. And it didn’t matter if you spent £5 or £500 we were all there to make a difference and help those in need.
You really can’t put a price on that.