I have long heard tales of ‘Ladies who Lunch’ so when invited by a friend to ‘lunch out’ a Yes was the only response, obviously.

The lunch was an annual event called the ‘North East Ladies Day’ (NELD) – organised both to support local charities and to bring the ladies of the north east closer together. https://www.northeastladiesday.co.uk/   Established in 1983 it has raised over £300,000 for small local charities based in the north east – it is often such charities that miss out on opportunities available to the larger charities such as Cancer Research UK, BLISS etc. All deserving of support although due to their national visibility, and often a Patron with a household name, the larger charities are more recognisable when we are looking for a cause to promote.

Each year the Lunch has increased its attendance and this year was the largest to date. There was a mix of attendees, many were there to socialise whilst supporting local charities whilst others were  women in business taking the opportunity to raise their visibility and to network.

Aside from the charitable objective the day also provides a vibrant social occasion to catch up with friends old and new. I talked to a group of ladies who only meet once a year, at this lunch. They were all seated together at a lunch 12 years ago and had such a good time that they have met annually ever since.

There were 645 ladies at this, the 36th lunch, and all were greeted at the door by the Master of Ceremonies – Elissa Baker – a very cheery host who employed humour and wit to ensure the programme ran smoothly. A glass of Champagne whilst wandering through the marquee listening to vocalist Val Bilton and visiting the 40 stalls is a good way to spend an hour before lunch, I must say.

The Stalls were a variety of goods and services and very tempting with Christmas not too far away. These ranged from Leather goods, Specialist Gins, Make-your-own curry spice kits, Photographers and cosmetics. I did try on a coat that was an excellent match for the dress I was wearing although unfortunately not in my size.

Following lunch (3 courses and well cooked and presented – for 645, how do they do it?) we were treated to a demonstration of dance by some of the children benefiting from one of the supported charities (see below) and two soloists from nearby Yarm School.

This year Anne Diamond had accepted the invitation, as the Guest Speaker, to address the NELD Ladies. Now, I did know of her, especially through the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign. I doubt there is anyone in Britain who has not heard of her, but I am not a morning TV viewer, nor have I ever watched ‘Loose Women’ so had no expectations.

Anne Diamond 
Credit: Rocky/WENN.com

Starting her talk bright and energetic she suddenly stopped ‘I can’t do this – speaking behind a lectern with all these mikes, I must come forward’. So she did, setting the tone for the remainder of her time – open, friendly, honest whilst being informative and interesting. Her topic was her career, it’s ups and downs. Yet, it wasn’t about her but about those she had met, who had supported her whilst she developed skills and gained experience. The generosity of people she met, even those who were initially strangers before becoming friends.

Oh – the name dropping! Each anecdote demonstrating the humanity of those she interviewed. Who know that Mrs Thatcher was interested in fashion and happy to offer style advice?

Too many tales to repeat although I did note that each was told with an abundance of fun and an absence of malice. A very entertaining 50 minutes, no one minded that she over-ran, even MC Elissa ignored the time keeping.

The topic I remember most was the reference to the #metoo campaign. Anne Diamond recognised its importance and agreed that those found guilty of harassment should be justly punished. She then reminded us that during her career she had met many men in positions of power who had not abused their positions, that they had in fact been supportive and generous with advice, promoting the development of female colleagues. It was important, she reminded the audience, that this is recognised, that women have some understanding of the impact the recent revelations have had on the confidence of men in general.

The charities selected for 2018 and offered the chance to raise awareness of their aims and activity are listed below, photographed receiving an interim cheque from Anne Diamond, on behalf of NELD:

We Can Dance ( https://www.wecandance.co.uk/ ) a small charity which provides dance lessons for children with special needs, we were treated to demonstration of dance by some of the children – Strictly contestants of the future I wondered. As well as learning to dance, the hidden benefits include the increase of self-confidence, improvement of movement and the opportunity to develop friendships.

JPC Community Farm ( https://jpccommunityfarm.co.uk/ ) set in approx. 23 acres the community sole purpose is to provide supported independent living for adults with special complex needs in a safe and caring environment. It offers many activities encouraging everyone to reach their full potential.

Neoangels ( http://www.neoangels.org.uk/ ) supporting the families and staff on the Neonatal Units of North tees Hospital in Stockton and James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough. This charity is particularly dear to me as my youngest daughter arrived in the world too soon and spent her first two weeks in the North Tees Neonatal unit – amongst minor concerns she also kept forgetting to breathe, which was very frightening for those around her. Being a midwife who had specialised in Neonatal care did not help me at all! The staff in the unit were fantastic and so, obviously, I am always happy to support the charity’s aims to provide a comfortable environment for families whilst their child is in the unit.    The North East Ladies day 2019 is on Tuesday 24th September, the guest speaker is Ian Waite. A Professional dancer, previously on Strictly Come Dancing, as well as his professional dancing career he is currently supporting Zoe Ball on ‘It Takes Two’.

The date is already in my diary.

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