Set amongst 37 acres of rolling English countryside next to Windsor castle, the White Tie & Tiara Ball is a spectacular evening, raising money for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Since then, it has become an annual event hosted by Elton and David and one of the premier fundraising events of the UK.
A highlight of the year’s social calendar, the ball always attracts a wealth of celebrities. In previous year’s guests have included Diana Ross, Sharon Stone, Michael Douglas & Catherine Zeta Jones, Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, Sean Connery, Guy Richie, Joss Stone, P. Diddy, Boris Becker, Joan Collins, Joan Rivers, Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Elizabeth Hurley & Hugh Grant, Victoria & David Beckham, Elle Macpherson, Mick Jagger & Jerry Hall, Kylie Minogue, Pierce Brosnan, Anastacia, Spice Girls, Roger Federer, Dawn French & Lenny Henry, Ronan Keating, George Michael, Trudie Styler, Sir Tim Rice, Jasper Conran, Jane Seymour, Sir Bob Geldof, Sophie Dahl, Diana Krall, Lulu, Sir David Frost, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Daldry, Nigella Lawson, Richard E. Grant and the list goes on!
Beginning with a champagne reception, guests are able to walk around the grounds of Woodside at their leisure enjoying the elegant surroundings of the 18th Century Orangery, The White Scented Gardens, The Roman Terrace, The Italian Garden, The Tennis Courts and The Secret Garden. Each of the gardens is brought to life with a host of themed performers and musicians which have ranged from characters from A Midsummer Nights Dream in The Secret Garden, a thirteen piece orchestra and four opera singers in the classical Italian Garden to live zebras and giraffes, a pink stretch cadillac filled with 10 Elvis’s or Venice Beach at the 2008 Ball. The evening then continues with a lavish dinner featuring London’s top caterers and selections of premium wines.
A short auction follows featuring a number of exclusive and unique lots. In 2001 the auction, hosted by Kevin Spacey, saw a hilarious bidding war erupt between himself and Kate Winslet which resulted in Kate joining him on stage to fight over a unique diamond watch created by the event sponsors, Chopard. Other auction lots have included “You write the lyrics and Elton writes the song”, a private yoga lesson with Sting, a portrait session with photographer David LaChapelle, a football lesson with England Captain David Beckham, a sculpture by Antony Gormley, an appliqued blanket by Tracey Emin, a painting by Marc Quinn and a dinner with Elton & David at their London home.
The night culminates with much anticipated performances from some very special surprise guests and Sir Elton himself. Each year, magical and memorable moments are created included performances from Craig David and Ronan Keating, a duet by Elton and Sting of “Hey Big Spender” and an impromptu duet of Elton’s classic “Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting” with Anastacia and Elton. Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach received a standing ovation for their set one year before going on to invite Elton to join them on stage to perform “That’s What Friends Are For”. Recent guest performers have included Patti LaBelle, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Donna Summer, Barry Manilow, Take That, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Brian Wilson and a special appearance by a HIV-positive Choir from South Africa with Elton.
The evening then finishes with dancing into the early hours and breakfast.
Each year, the ball takes on a different theme but the dress code remains the same: White Tie & Tails for Gentlemen, and Tiaras and Ball Gowns for Ladies. Themes have been inspired by a variety of influences including The Wallace Collection which saw the marquee transformed into a French 18th Century Palace complete with a hand-painted marble floor and waiting staff dressed as footmen with powdered faces and white wigs. 2001 saw a broadly Italian theme, focusing on ‘The Glory of Venice’. St Marks Square was re-created indoors complete with a 24m long purpose-built canal (which guests had to cross over a stone bridge) running directly through the dinning room. In 2003, the ball took a 1930’s British theme, inspired by Robert Altman’s Oscar Winning Gosford Park. The reception room was transformed into a magnificent library using 6,000 leather-bound books, while the dining room was decorated with chandeliers, oil paintings, and burgundy & gold velvet drapes. More recent events have been themed around Imperial Russia, Imperial China, Africa, Mogul India, Las Vegas and last year, Californian Beach.
Since it began, the White Tie & Tiara Ball event alone has raised over £40 million to fund projects for those affected by HIV & AIDS in Europe, Africa, Asia and India, helping the Foundation to positively change the lives of millions of people in need.
An extraordinary result for an extraordinary event.
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