On Friday 21st June we welcomed patients, their loved ones, local supporters and a few VIPs to our very first Summer Drinks Party in Horatio’s Garden Stoke Mandeville. 

Guests were invited to enjoy a tipple of prosecco and some delicious canapés, all of which were handmade on the evening by our brilliant volunteers, whilst spending time admiring the garden amongst their friends. 

It was truly wonderful to see so many people in attendance, particularly as many people were being introduced to the charity and the garden for the first time. As guests walked through the gates numerous people were visibly astonished by how beautiful the space now is thanks to a year of hard work by Head Gardener Jacqui Martin-Lof and the team. The wildflower meadow in particular was putting on a spectacular show, offering the perfect welcome to everyone as they meandered down to the main garden. 

The evening was once again generously sponsored by Bolt Burdon Kemp, with representatives Raquel Siganporia, Alex Dabek, Victoria Oliver and Ryan Harvey joining us for the occasion. The Bolt Burdon Kemp team spent the evening animatedly talking to guests, offering advice and warmth to everyone who approached them. It was also lovely for the whole crowd to hear from Raquel, who is a Partner and Head of the Spinal Injury Team. She kindly shared her experience of spending time in the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre at Stanmore as a child, and illustrated how having a Horatio’s Garden would have helped her enormously whilst staying in hospital, and in preparing for life beyond the ward. 

There was plenty of entertainment for guests to enjoy between chatting, including music from the talented Sunfish Trio and an exciting raffle. As well as a £250 cash prize, supporters had the chance to try their luck for a Cassandra Goad pendant and a two-night stay at the stunning Calf Shed, a prize generously donated by Gillie Strang. There was certainly a great amount of interest in the fundraiser, which along with the rest of the money raised by the event will ensure we can continue to nurture the thriving community at Horatio’s Garden Stoke Mandeville. 

We were also thrilled to welcome our friend and award-winning garden designer, Joe Swift, back to the garden. Joe was responsible for designing our gorgeous Stoke Mandeville garden, and was so pleased to see that it has truly come to life in just one short year. He also generously spoke to the gathered guests, alongside Dr Olivia Chapple, with both offering everyone a humorous insight into just how difficult it was to get the garden underway thanks to the pesky placement of a generator!  

Emma Bridgewater, renowned designer of uniquely beautiful, yet practical pottery, also came to the event and had a very special surprise up her sleeve. Emma went above and beyond throughout the evening and delighted guests by offering to sign her exclusive Horatio’s Garden mugs, so supporters could take one home as a truly one-off memento of the occasion. We so appreciate all that Emma has done for Horatio’s Garden, and it was lovely to see her engage so happily with all who attended. 

It was a pleasure to introduce Baroness Masham to the garden too, who enjoyed her evening immensely and spent time amongst the crowd speaking with many about her incredible life and work. Not only is she a medal-winning Paralympic swimmer and table tennis player, she is also Westminster’s longest-serving life peer and continues to champion disability, health and penal reforms in the House of Lords, as she has done throughout her 50 year career. We feel hugely privileged to have the Baroness’ support as an ambassador of the charity.   

With so many interesting guests and our marvellous volunteers ensuring everything ran smoothly, the evening was a huge success. As you’ll see from the photos below, the spirit of the occasion was perfectly preserved by photographer Mark Lord and will be fondly remembered for many years to come. Whilst it was all over far too quickly, we’re excited to see how the Stoke Mandeville garden develops over the coming months and look forward to celebrating with many more friends at our Summer Drinks Party next year.