I mentioned last week that I’m thinking carefully about how I can make Midlifechic count. Without changing things too much, I’m going to work more with charities, find brands that have good environmental and social policies and also help support small companies, particularly those run by women over 40. Today’s post ticks off two of these criteria because I want to you to tell you all about what went on at a charity fundraising event that I went to last Wednesday – the Spectacle Wearer of the Year Awards.
You may remember that I was invited last year too. It’s run by Specsavers and as you know, I do quite a bit of behind the scenes work with them. Last Tuesday I mentioned the shoot we’ve just done as I’m also part of their Loveglasses Squad. We’re a team of eight ambassadors and we’re flying the flag for everyone who wears glasses, showing that spectacle wearers can be just as stylish as everyone else. The Squad launched in the summer but we haven’t had a chance to get together in real life until now. And here we all are.
So, let me tell you about the evening. As I mentioned, the Spectacle Wearer of the Year Awards is an annual event that Specsavers puts on to raise funds for the small anti-bullying charity Kidscape. I love the fact that they’ve chosen to work with a small charity on a long term basis rather than just ticking off the usual corporate social responsibility box by circling through the big ones each year. Not only do they raise funds for Kidscape but they actively help to run it and Specsavers’ co-founder Dame Mary Perkins sits on the board.
The target for this year’s event was to raise £100,000 which is a big number for a single night. However Specsavers pulls out all the stops for this event, forgive the pun but it really is spectacular and of course this means they get some really big names coming along to support it.
As an inside team, we were given early access to the flower wall for photographs. Here I am with David from Grey Fox…
We then had a sneak preview of some of the new Specsavers frames that are being launched. Part of my feedback to Specsavers over the last year has been that I’d like to see them add more fashionable styles to their own range. They’ve kept telling me that they’re working on it and now I can really see that they are. I absolutely love this big round pair and they’re only £45.
and these new cats eye frames – they just have so much attitude.
So then we watched as the celebs started to come through for their turn at the flower wall. I winced when I saw this chap having his moment because I’d been chatting away to him in the lift earlier in the evening, completely oblivious to the fact that he’s Darren Kennedy, a well known TV presenter. What I will say is that he’s utterly charming and he came over to talk to me again the next morning when I was sitting on my own having breakfast.
There was a procession of people from the reality TV shows – Love Island, Made In Chelsea and TOWIE. And it was fascinating watching Louis Walsh handle some of the quite tricky questions that were thrown at him by the press.
But I think this was my favourite celeb moment of the evening, with Dave Myers from the Hairy Bikers. He’s just as warm and friendly as you’d imagine him to be – and didn’t he look dapper in his plum velvet suit?
So then it was time to go through for dinner and the awards. And as I sat there I had one of those ‘pinch me’ moments. As their LoveGlasses squad, Specsavers had placed us at what must have been the best table in the room. We were within touching distance of Shirley Ballas from Strictly, Louis Walsh, Eamonn Holmes, the pop star Tulisa, Twiggy, Amanda Barrie, Sandi Toksvig… the list goes on.
When you hear about the work that Kidscape does, it makes you shiver. As we all know, bullying is more pervasive than ever and it’s hard watching the videos of children talking about how they have no escape from it because even at home, they’re targeted via social media. Amongst other things, Kidscape runs groups to teach them ways of standing up for themselves.
The awards themselves are for ordinary people who wear glasses. Anyone can enter via the Specsavers website and they donate £1 to Kidscape for every entry so it’s something that I’m going to encourage everyone on here to do next year. Before the winners go on stage to receive their award, a video is played where they talk about their relationship with glasses. I’m not going to go through them all but I just want to share two of the stories with you.
Before the categories for customers began, there was the Dame Mary Perkins Award for professionalism and expertise which went to Specsavers optician Pratish Bhundia. Pratish was performing a routine eye test on a child, Kian Priest, when he detected signs of a tumour behind his eye. Kian was operated on urgently and has now made a good recovery so Specsavers quite literally saved his life. His grandparents were on stage to say a huge thank you and everyone was very moved as you can see.
In the 25 – 34 year old category, Shane Haron told us that he was badly bullied at school for wearing glasses, so much so that he left at 16 because he couldn’t stand it any longer. However he’s since gone on to work in a Pupil Referral unit where he helps not only children who are being bullied but also the bullies themselves. The ceremony went on, with amazing stories from everyday people. And this is what I love about Specsavers, their focus on people across the board, regardless of age or status.
Sandi Toksvig articulated it perfectly in her speech. She said that she’s fought for equality all of her life and she admires Specsavers because one of their core beliefs is that a low income shouldn’t mean you can’t be stylish. Her view is that Specsavers are, in fact, doing a social service. She then also cracked the best joke of the night when she said to Rylan, (TV presenter and outré compère for the evening) “there must be something wrong with these glasses because I fancy you now!”
Twiggy presented an award to the winner of the over 60s category. As you can see, every winner has a make-over before the event and the chance to choose a new outfit – this was one of my favourites.
And the time came for the judges to decide on the overall ‘spectacle wearer of the year’. Here they are, thinking hard…
… and the very well deserved winner was Shane Haron who pledged to continue his commitment to combatting bullying by launching his own initiative. He also appealed to the celebrities present for their continuing support on the subject of bullying.
With the announcement that we’d beaten our target and raised £105,000, the ceremony came to an end and we went downstairs where there was a dancefloor and the most amazing ‘interactive dessert table.’ You were handed a bowl of affogato and the idea was that you scooped up a topping. It was like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and everyone just kept going back for more all night.
It was fascinating to get to know the other bloggers and we asked Specsavers why they had chosen us. They said they were looking for down to earth bloggers who have something to say. So simple and yet such a compliment – it’s made me love them as a brand even more. Blogging is such a crowded market now, filled with beautiful people so any company that can see beyond the fluff has my vote.
Eventually people began to peel away. As we were leaving, Rylan rushed past us on the stairs because he was minutes away from starting his birthday celebrations at midnight but he very obligingly stopped for one last picture:
And so that was the end of my star-studded evening. I feel honoured that Specsavers has committed to working with me on an ongoing basis. Support from big brands like this every so often means that I don’t have to overcommericalise Midlifechic to keep it running. So in a way, the fact that they choose to work with me because I’m ‘real’ becomes a virtuous circle. It gives me the breathing space to keep the majority of my content real and unsponsored. I hope this has helped you to see why they’re a business that is worthy of our custom: they’re a community player and they give so much back. I’m proud to be one of their ambassadors.
Disclosure: ‘Brands that give back – Specsavers and Kidscape’ is in collaboration with Specsavers and I was invited to the event free of charge. However the story of the evening and thoughts about the brand are my own.
The Marks & Spencer advent calendar is now on sale for £35 when you spend £35 on clothing,beauty or home. It’s worth over £280 and stocks are unlikely to last beyond weekend so be quick – you can find it here.
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