On the 10th of September the day came for all of this to come together in one place at the same time for ‘Wear it for Autism’. How hard could it actually be?
The truth is it was hard, challenging and tiring, however, the AKO Team headed up by Anna, Austin, Lisa and Tally were there to steer the event through to a great success. With the amazing support of Stuart Howitt Productions a vast empty venue space was quickly, within one morning, turned into a performance space and catwalk that ANY fashion show would have been impressed with. It is amazing what a few hands and a little bit of the old elbow grease can do to turn a venue round into the finished product.
While parents, families, carers and children were having their hair and make-up done in one room and outfits put together and styled for them in another, by the amazing Phill Tarling, the event team was hurriedly piecing everything together including arranging and covering 250 chairs and then tying bows on them for that dressy look. All the furniture was provided and delivered to the venue by Furniture Hire UK which was no easy task as it was a good trek from the vans to the venue! Their staff worked VERY hard in both the get-in and get-out and we can’t speak highly enough of them.
Fashion networks across Soho and London must have come to a standstill as everyone who was anyone was with us pampering our amazing finalists. The guys from Mahogany Hair spent hours talking with the finalists and working on their hair, a whole process that had our Austin fascinated, “I was astounded by the dedication, time and effort that they put into this. It sure beats my one pass of the comb I do every other morning!”
Obviously when you have great hair you want some AMAZING Make-up. We had three wonderful young ladies with us who’s smiles and gentle nature would light any room even before they have got to work with their skills. Of course a great make-over demands a great outfit. Phill Tarling took the time to listen to and make all of the finalists feel comfortable and relaxed as he put their outfits together with Samantha Tomlin, herself a top model, on hand to assist and share a smile and comforting word. Phill must be good as he even got a hug out of our very own Austin! An amazing range of clothes was there for Phill to work with including some by the amazing Kaffa Mockbill.
The faithful backbone of the charity was as ever in full force with Anna’s lovely sister and her rather suave husband being on hand to ensure everyone was ok with Stacey and Marita lending a hand at the drop of a hat or the point of a finger. As ever, there to help out and keep everyone company was the Anna’s mother in-law the now legendary ‘Coral’.
By the time the evening was upon us, the stage was set, press and photographers were circling while invited celebrities shared a kind word with the finalists as the nerves slowly built.
Nerves? you don’t need nerves when you have the voice of Britain’s Got Talent’s Peter Dickson to herald in the start of the show and the amazing skills and talent of the Pineapple Performing Arts School dancers to really get things going with an opening performance that had everyone on the edge of their seats.
From that point on it was a rollercoaster of emotions bouncing between laughter and tears, sometimes tears of laughter!
Austin Hughes, as ever, ably compered the evening introducing the wide range of celebrity presenters. Those presenting included Joe Swash, Kitty Brucknell and Melanie Masson, who welcomed the ‘Wear it for Autism’ finalists onto the stage with words of support and giving each finalist, after they had strutted their stuff, the chance to speak a little about themselves and their link to Autism be that through caring for another or being on the Autistic Spectrum themselves. As touching stories were shared the emotions certainly started to flow but Austin was there to lift us back into a room of beaming smiles should the need arise (to be fair we think there were a few jokes that may have caused the tears!….only kidding Austin!)
One of the most touching moments of the evening had to be when our very own Anna Kennedy took to the catwalk with her two handsome sons who are on different parts of the Spectrum. As Austin pointed out the very journey that had brought us all together on this evening, as it has on many occasions starting with the schools, started with Anna’s own battle to ensure that Patrick and Angelo got the very best education and support that they could. That journey has now included many other parents and families as the Anna Kennedy Online charity now helps them in their battles and struggles. One such amazing parent was Olley Edwards invited to share with everyone details of her own great awareness raising.
As ever the night sadly had to come to an end. All of the finalists, in their new outfits, once again took to the catwalk for a final cheer and a bow where they were joined by our host of celebrities. The fun didn’t quite end there as we still had the raffle to work our way through. Great moments, including Joe Swash running up for someone else’s prize and a young lad on the spectrum picking out tickets and then putting them back when he didn’t like the look of them, made the raffle one to certainly be remembered.
As our warm and supportive audience slowly drifted back off down the red carpet on their way home it was lovely to see the celebrities, such as Dr Pam Spurr, staying behind to talk with the finalists further adding to the great day they had had.
Next up was to slowly strip the venue down taking it back to the empty room it had been. We had come full circle from the point the day had started at. The venue may now have been empty…….but the laughter and memories will be held in there and the hearts of those who shared the experience with us for many years to come.
It was time to reflect….time to rest and recover. The A Team was in need of some time out……well that is until the point about 5 minutes after everyone had left when Anna said ‘Do we start arranging the next one now?’………this was followed by Austin, Lisa and Tally very quickly running to a local bar before they had to answer!
Please see clip of our first Charity Fashion Show that was aired on Sky TV :