Visitors to the Annual Association of Colleges (AoC) Conference spent their first night raising money for charity by bidding in a special celebrity auction.

The event, organised by FE Week and sponsored by Tribal and NCFE, raised exactly £10,000 for the Helena Kennedy Foundation (HKF), by auctioning luxury items such as tickets to a Premiership football game, a two night tree house experience and premium Apple gadget collection.

Shane Mann, one of the event organisers, and Nick Linford, Managing Editor of FE Week, opened the doors at Birmingham Town Hall and opened the proceedings in high spirits.
Guests arrived in stunning outfits including tuxedos, cocktail dresses and bow ties.

After a beautiful drinks reception visitors were led into the main dinner hall, where they were greeted by an acoustic set performed by FE Week Graphic Designer Daniel Duke.

Congratulations to everybody who is in the room here to support the HKF ”

Daniel performed a series of famous covers throughout the night including ‘I’m Yours’ by Jason Mraz, ‘Bare Necessities’ from The Jungle Book and ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey.
The traditional room décor was lit up by sparking tables, artistic flower arrangements and an elaborate stage featuring a large slideshow projection.

Dr Ann Limb OBE, Chair of HKF, gave a formal introduction and described how the Foundation was launched at the AoC Conference in 1998: “We did so of course because we desperately wanted to ensure that further education got its place in the limelight.

“It’s not been a particularly easy journey for this foundation. It’s had its ups and downs. But I had a dream, and I had a friend in Helena, who wanted to support the idea. And of course, I had massive support from many of you and your predecessors in this room as FE college leaders.”

Ann Limb then announced the winner of the very first HKF Ambassadors Award, Carole Stott. “We’ve been supported by many people, but principally by a group of trustees who have given their time freely, and endlessly to act as ambassadors for the foundation,” Ann Limb said.

“We wanted to make a special award tonight, the first ever HKF Ambassadors Award, to somebody who I count as a friend. You will know her as someone who has championed a very creative way of looking at the awarding of credit to students throughout their learning journey. She’s done so much for further education that she ought to be honoured in all sorts of ways.”

The charity auction had various forms of entertainment throughout the evening. This included a professional magician, capable of sealing a written, five letter word within an envelope without anyone’s knowledge, as well as a number of advanced card tricks.

As well as doing what you’re [FE] supposed to do, in terms of helping young people, you also make up for what other people don’t do.”

A portrait artist was also doing the rounds, creating quick caricatures that were both humorous and realistic. Attendees were able to take their picture home once they gave a small donation to the Foundation.

Guests also had the chance to have their photograph taken with a Polaroid camera.

Barry Brookes, Director for Education and Skills Strategy at Tribal Group, said: “Congratulations to everybody who is in the room here to support the HKF, rather than going to the groovy KPMG dinner somewhere over the way.”

“From a personal point of view but also from a travelled point of view, the work that Ann, Helena and I guess you guys do for young people is absolutely critical. This is a challenging time – I don’t need to tell you about that. But what I don’t think is said enough, and it’s certainly not said enough in Whitehall or to ministers, is that actually as well as doing what you’re supposed to do, in terms of helping young people, you also make up for what other people don’t do when they’re supposed to be helping young people.

“The sector really deserves a fantastic recognition of that. The work that Helena does in terms of enabling people to have those opportunities which they may not necessarily get, and the development work you do as a sector in terms of switching people on not just to learning, but becoming who they really should be.”

Guests were served a three course meal which included a salmon and prawn starter, beef and vegetables for the main course and hot sticky chocolate pudding for dessert. This then made way for the highlight of the evening – the auction itself. Simon Fanshawe, world respected comedian, broadcaster and education consultant, managed the bidding with comic wit and enticed all of the guests into raising their paddles and giving some dosh to a worthwhile course.

Bidders were thrilled to walk away with digital cameras, gift vouchers and holidays at the charity auction. And of course, raising money for a great cause didn’t hurt either!
The evening was rounded off by two duet performances; freelance journalist Janet Murray and Daniel Duke performing ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues, as well as Nick Linford and Daniel Duke performing ‘I wish I knew how it would feel to be free’ by Nina Simone.

FE Week was thrilled to be able to hold an event which not only brought all the AoC Conference visitors in Birmingham together, but also raised a fantastic amount of money for charity.
The team at FE Week would like to thank everyone that attended the auction and helped raise £10,000 for the Helena Kennedy Foundation.

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