By Kirsty Herrington
Yesterday reminded me just what this fandom is about. Yes it’s about admiring Gillian and her work, but it’s also about meeting fabulous like-minded people who share an enthusiasm. Yesterday we did that whilst helping to raise an amazing amount of money for a fabulous cause, SA-YES. For those of you who aren’t aware, SA-YES, (South African Youth Education for Sustainability, http://www.sa-yes.com), is a charity which provides support for young people making the move from care into independent living.
The idea of a charity walk in and around London came from Clare, a fellow GA fan, who emailed a few of us over Christmas and asked what we thought of the idea. Initially we thought it would be just a small group of us and so the original target was £500. In total 17 of us took part in the week and we’ve raised £2,434…so far! Of course, when the date of the walk was confirmed as 23rd March, we thought we’d be dealing with spring weather and possibly the odd shower. Instead we were faced with snow, sleet and chilly weather – not that it put us off!
Our walk began just after 10.30 with a group photo outside of the Royal Court in Sloane Square, where Gillian performed the Sweetest Swing in Baseball in 2004. Norma, a lovely lady from Wirral, who’d come all the way to London just to officially start the walk off, waved the red flag and we were off!! Our first stop was Notting Hill and Portobello Road to visit the flat where Gillian used to live (and make a brief stop off at Electric Cinema in Notting Hill where she attended the premiere of Solaris, starring George Clooney). After pausing for some photographs and accidentally buzzing through to the flat we made a quick getaway to Marylebone and the home of William Vintage’s shop. Thankfully it was closed; else I’m pretty sure the majority of us girls would have been forever lost amongst beautiful dresses.
Once we’d managed to drag ourselves away, we headed down towards Leicester Square, trying to avoid a busy Oxford Street as much as possible, for a rest stop, pausing for photographs outside of the Empire Cinema, host of both the X Files I Want to Believe and Johnny English Reborn premieres. By this point, we were just over halfway and as we set out again, the sleet and snow definitely meant it! At this point we were joined by Sheila, who had recently fractured her foot but still volunteered to walk a few miles with us (and became our official photographer!)
Our next stop was the Comedy Theatre (now the Harold Pinter Theatre), which was where Gillian performed in What the Night is For in 2002, before we continued to Covent Garden and the Donmar Warehouse, home to A Doll’s House back in 2009.
The Dickens Museum was next, where Gillian gave a reading of Great Expectations to Prince Charles and Camilla last year as part of the bicentenary celebrations for Charles Dickens. It was also our penultimate stop – from there it was on to Crouch End – the end was in sight, albeit just over four miles away! It was more or less a straight road to Crouch End, though as we neared the finish, things got a little tougher, the pace a little slower, the blisters a little bigger and the pavements a little slushier. Thankfully there were no accidents and finally, just before 7pm, we saw it – the hill leading into Crouch End! It wasn’t easy but finally we made it to what was Gillian’s primary school. Again we stopped for photographs before making our descent down the other side of the hill, all doing well to stay on our feet and not slide down (after 14 miles it was quite tempting though). Waiting at the bottom of the hill was possibly the best sight of the entire day – Budgens Convenience Store. I’m sure the shop has never received such a positive reaction, and that the staff and customers wondered exactly why we were so excited to be there, but it marked the end of our 14 mile (well, 14.34 miles to be exact) journey. We stopped to admire Gillian’s favourite bakery in Crouch End (sadly it was closed by the time we arrived, so we didn’t have a chance to try for ourselves), and then we posed for one final group picture complete with a cheque detailing donations up until that point – £2,400!
And then we turned around and walked all the way back…Kidding, we had a well-deserved rest on the bus before going our separate ways.
I’m sure I speak on behalf of my fellow walkers when I say that today I ache in places I never knew existed but we had the best day, met some great people whilst helping to raise much needed money for SA-YES and WE DID IT!!! Of course, we couldn’t have done it without our supporters, and the increasing total gave us more than enough motivation during the day. £2,436.76 (so far!) is a fabulous amount of money raised, so THANK YOU to everyone who donated and helped spread the word! A big thank you also has to go to Clare and Cathy for organising and Julie and the team at SA-YES and GAWS in helping spread the word. And Gillian too, even though by the end we were all wishing she’d been brought up in the West End rather than Crouch End!
Clare, Cathy, Lou, Cheryl, Emma, Peet, Celly, Polly, Rosie, Petra, Monika, Effie, Sheila, it was lovely to meet you and a pleasure to walk with you all. Such a fun day and an amazing amount of money raised for a great cause and I look forward to the next meet-up. Thanks to Norma too for her support and travelling all the way to London on a pretty chilly day.
Let’s just choose a warmer day for the next half-marathon ;))
If you haven’t yet donated to the GA London Walk, there’s still time to do so, and any amount is appreciated – please visit http://www.justgiving.com/teams/GAlondoncharitywalk and donate anything you can. THANK YOU.