EACH year, the Big Curry Lunch hosted by Lord Mayor Michael Bear gets “bigger and better” according to Bear, with 800 guests from the City, Parliament and Livery Companies sitting down to three servings yesterday at the Guildhall.
The annual banquet is held in aid of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, and this year’s event raised more than £150,000 thanks to benefactors including John Griffith-Jones, EMEA chairman at KPMG (top right) and Robin Creswell, managing principal of investment fund Payden & Rygel.
However, the City guest with the most personal connection to The Soldiers Charity was committee member Bob Wigley (pictured bottom right), the former chairman of Merrill Lynch EMEA who is now chairman of Yell.
Wigley told The Capitalist how his father Joe was an RAF navigator in the Lancaster Bomber Command, but his mother was left struggling when Joe’s state pension was cut off on his death.
He said: “It has been disgraceful that the country’s ex-servicemen have not been properly looked after in the past.”
In tribute to his late father, Wigley is in the process of raising €14m (£12.3m) of equity – split between UK and German investors – as executive producer of a film called Bomber, based on the wartime thriller of the same name by Len Deighton.
If all goes to plan, filming on the project – which follows the progress of an ill-fated Allied air-raid in 1943 – will take place next year, with the movie scheduled for release by Christmas 2012.
FATHER AND SON
THERE were some “priceless experiences” as prizes at the event’s silent auction, such as firearms training for six with the City of London Police, a fishing trip for two on Northern Ireland’s River Mourne and the chance for two couples to stay overnight in the State bedrooms at the Mayor’s official residence at Mansion House – “one of the grandest surviving town houses in London”, with a world-class collection of paintings.
The Lord Mayor himself was hoping to win a tour of the WW1 battlefields at Ypres as a twenty-first birthday present for his son Marc, who held a dinner party for 40 “very well-behaved” engineering friends from Birmingham University at Mansion House last Saturday.
Confidentiality prevents the City of London naming which bidders won each prize – so let’s hope the winning £1,750 bid to see the battlefields of Belgium is debited from the Mayoral bank account.
FOX CALLS TIME OUT
Meanwhile, defence secretary Liam Fox hung back from bidding for the military-themed lots – such as spending the day with Sir Nick Parker, the commander-in-chief of the British Army – as it would be a bit of a busman’s holiday.
He said: “I certainly won’t be bidding for a day with the military, because I can do that any time I like.”
What Fox really wants – or, to be more accurate, what his medical director wife Jesme Baird wants so she can spend time with her husband – is a day off.
Not that Fox was complaining about not having any time off work since 18 February and cancelling bank holidays – as he made clear, that’s just the state of play when you are in charge of the UK’s armed forces as the country goes to war with Libya.