People across Dorset prepare to host their own own Great Wessex Dinner
PUBLISHED: 14:27 29 September 2014 | UPDATED: 14:29 29 September 2014
On October 4th all across the county people will be hosting their own Great Wessex Dinner to raise money for some remarkable charities. Adam Lee-Potter donned his best bib and tucker to meet some of the people involved
Never has Nubar Gulbenkian been proved more wrong. Even he – a famously louche tycoon who once quipped: “The best number for a dinner party is two: myself and a damn good head waiter” – would recant in the face of this month’s Great Wessex Dinner.
On October 4, a battery of simultaneous dinner parties, large and small, will be hosted at homes across Dorset and the South West to raise sorely-needed money for three local children’s hospices –Julia’s House, Naomi House and Jacksplace.
The great and the good have joined forces to ensure that the evening goes off with aplomb.
From the Earl and Countess of Shaftesbury’s Wimborne St Giles estate to Athelhampton’s Patrick and Andrea Cooke to the Treichls at Parnham, the grand houses of Dorset will ring to the tinkle of downed crystal and rising coffers.
Dorset Magazine couldn’t resist christening the bash, which is sponsored by estate agents Strutt & Parker, with a dinner party of our own at the Grosvenor Arms in Shaftesbury.
Susanna and Adam Laurie, who moved to Beaminster in 1996, are planning a lavish dinner for 12 of their neighbours and friends.
German-born Susanna, a one-time international model who led campaigns for Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier and Versace, will do all the cooking herself.
“Don’t believe all you hear about models,” says the 55-year-old. “I love food and I know how to cook. And who wouldn’t want to get involved for such a worthy cause?
“I have two children of my own and I can only imagine how horrendous it must be for a parent to have a terminally-ill child.
“These hospices do such an amazing job and they need and deserve our money and our time. To raise money and have a lovely evening in the process? It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?”
Susanna’s menu seems, if anything, a snip at £50. For starters, she is laying on champagne and foie gras – imported from Reims – followed by Dorset venison with a cherry ragout and mousse of celeriac and, for pudding, gin and tonic jelly.
Her 52-year-old husband Adam, a leading security expert, will serve cocktails as guests arrive at the magnificent 19th Century Seaborough Court.
He said: “It might look magnificent now but you should have seen it when we bought it – there were trees growing inside, there was no running water and the electricity was condemned. It’s only 70 per cent finished now. But it is a fine house and we do love to throw a party, particularly when it’s raising money to help children.”
Artist Andrea Cooke owns Athelhampton, the 15th Century estate near Dorchester, with her husband Patrick, who was born there.
Because of a wedding booking, Andrea, 43, will be co-hosting her dinner with Liz Frampton Hobbs, at Moreton House.
“We’re getting in caterers,” she says, “so it should be glorious. And I was determined to get involved. I visited Julia’s House and it was so moving. The work they do is so essential. I have two young children of my own and you can’t help but think ‘there but for the Grace of God’.
“Patrick and I couldn’t host it at our house because of the wedding booking but Moreton House is fabulous. It should be a lovely evening. Who doesn’t love a party?”
Our own bash at the Grosvenor Arms wasn’t too shabby either, enhanced by a seemingly endless supply of Langham’s peerless Dorset sparkling wine.
Head chef Neil Duffett – who gratifyingly looks exactly like a chef should, like a coiled spring – is clearly a dab hand. His pigeon pastrami – which is sublime – took him no less than seven hours to cure.
If only fundraising was always this tasty. As Fiona Pengelly, of Strutt & Parker, said: “The Great Wessex Dinner will be a lot of fun and, hopefully, raise a lot of money.”
Hosting a Dinner
Anyone can host a fundraising dinner on 4 October (or as close to the date). Simply invite a few friends over. It really doesn’t need to be anything smart. At the end of the evening ask your guests to make a donation to these wonderful local charities.
To register as a Great Wessex Dinner party host and receive a welcome pack, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01202 644220. The pack includes party invites, further information about the event and details of how to receive discounted offers from local food and wine producers.
About the charities
Julia’s House (juliashouse.org) is Dorset’s only hospice dedicated to children with life-limiting conditions. This is complemented by the Julia’s House Community Team who provide support for families in their own homes in Dorset and South Wiltshire. Naomi House and Jacksplace (naomihouse.org.uk) provide care to life-limited and life-threatened children, young people and their families across Berkshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Surrey, West Sussex and Wiltshire.
The charity has two units, Naomi House for children and Jacksplace for teenagers and young adults.