The Tiger Gala

In March I was asked by Wildaid to take photos at the Tiger Gala, a black-tie charity fundraiser hosted by WildaidBorn Free and the Environmental Investigation Agency, three charities working together to highlight the shocking truth about the desperate plight of the wild tiger, and to help raise funds for conservation efforts.

London, Knightsbridge Wildaid tiger gala event PR leaflet

Photographing people, some well-known, all dolled up in their black-tie best, there to enjoy great entertainment and give generously to a touching cause… I was excited about this assignment.

The foyer of the Manderin Oriental Hotel, Knightsbridge, London

(Photo taken at: 1/25, f/1.4, ISO 800)

The venue was the beautiful Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge. A grand place. The crystal chandeliers in the upper foyer and ballroom were far taller than me (although, as my also-taller-than-me little brother would say, that’s not so difficult..).

Ballroom and Carlyle Room sign at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge, with a silhouetted figure walking upstairs behind

(Photo taken at 1/50, f/1.4, ISO 800)

Upstairs, preparations had begun for the guests to mingle with every comfort. This included drinks of course.

champagne in a silver ice bucket during Tiger Gala, Knightsbridge, London

(Photo taken at: 1/60, f/1.8, ISO 800)

Champagne and, fittingly, beer provided by Tiger beer.

champagne and Tiger beer for a gala in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Knightsbridge, London

(Photo taken at: 1/100, f/1.4, ISO 800)

Then the guests began arriving..

Alistair McGowen, Ronni Ancona, Virginia McKenna and Will Travers, CEO of Born Free, greeting at TIger Gala

(Photo taken at: 1/60, f/1.4, ISO 800)

Will Travers, the CEO of Born Free, and his mother  Virginia McKenna, one of the founders of the charity and a long-time campaigner for the causes it supports, greeted Alistair McGowan & Ronni Ancona, who were in turn joined by Bill Oddie

Ronni Ancona laughing with Bill Oddie while Alistair McGowen sips champagne at the Tiger Gala

(Photo taken at: 1/60, f/2.0, ISO 800)

Ronni Ancona feeding Bill Oddie chocolates at the Tiger Gala, Knightsbridge

(Photo taken at: 1/160, f/2.0, ISO 800)

…who seemed to be enjoying himself rather a lot.

Then, Joanna Lumley arrived. This may be a good time to mention my small obsession with her. I adore her. (For an example of why, watch this: Joanna Lumley in the Land of the Northern Lights) Every minor celebrity who had arrived so far had turned out to be rather… normal I suppose. I recognised them, but they were people like any others, who you wouldn’t notice if you didn’t know who they were. I was a little afraid that it would be the same with her.

Joanna Lumley greeting a friend at the Tiger Gala, Knightsbridge

(Photo taken at: 1/160, f/2.0, ISO 800)

To my delight I discovered that it was not. She is everything I imagined. The most electric, vibrant, truly delightful woman I could hope for her to be.

Joanna Lumley greeting her friend Virginia McKenna at the Tiger Gala in Knightsbridge

(Photo taken at: 1/160, f/2.0, ISO 800)

She gave her full, undivided attention to every person who approached her, even those who timidly touched her arm to ask if they could have their photo taken with her. Every person who mentioned her to me that night suffixed her name with, “Joanna Lumley…isn’t she divine?” or “..isn’t she stunning?” to which I would agree. And she wore a dress I covet greatly.

But enough of my hero-worship.

Dinner was called and the guests retired to the ballroom for their gourmet meal and the promised entertainment. Once they were comfortably seated, the night was opened with a blessing by two Buddhist monks.

Two Buddhist monks blessing the start of the Tiger Gala events

(Photo taken at: 1/60, f/1/8, ISO 1600)

This was the first time I got to challenge my new 85mm 1.8, and I love it! It was perfect for an event like this. Fast enough for low light (except when someone decided that “mood lighting” meant pretty much pitch black) and long enough to capture candid shots without intruding on conversations or blocking the audience’s view, but wide enough to be able to capture the environment. It’s definitely one of my cannot-be-without lenses now.

A baranatyam dancer preparing for her dance at the Tiger Gala, Knightsbridge

(Photo taken at: 1/125, f/1.4, ISO 1600)

Downstairs the final touches were added to elaborate dance costumes…

Traditional Balinese dancer waiting backstage for her dance at the Tiger Gala, Knightsbridge)

(Photo taken at: 1/50, f/1.8, ISO 1600)

…and when the guests had finished their meals, the dancers came up to perform.

Joanna Lumley, Will Travers and audience watching performance at Tiger Gala, London

(Photo taken at: 1/80, f/1.8, ISO 1600)

Balinese dancer performing at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Knightsbridge, London

(Photo taken at: 1/60, f/1.8, ISO 1600)

A Balinese dancer performed a traditional tiger dance…

Katak dancers swirling on stage at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for the Tiger Gala

(Photo taken at: 0.4″, f/9.0, ISO 1600)

…followed by two Katak dancers who twirled and whirled on the stage…

katak dancers and traditional drummers at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel

(Photo taken at: 1/15, f/3.5, ISO 1600)

…before being joined by a group of traditional drummers.

And here I have to insert a gratuitous, “Excuse me, over here..!!” shot:

Donal McIntyre and wife with Jimmy Choo

(Photo taken at: 1/250, f/1.4, ISO 1600)

On the left is Donal McIntyre, whose undercover shows used to scare and enthral me as a youngster, before he became too famous to go undercover himself. He was actually the host of the night, but didn’t hang around on stage long enough for me to capture many shots of him speaking. On the right is his very lovely wife who was ever so friendly and chatted a while with me. And in the centre is the one and only Jimmy Choo.

And back to the event.

Joanna Lumley stepped onto the stage after the dancers had finished, and loosened both heart and purse strings with a few rousing words about the cause that had brought everyone there…

Joanna Lumley speaking strongly at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in London

(Photo taken at: 1/125, f/1.8, ISO 1600)

…before handing over to the much-venerated Nicholas Parsons, who was to host the  grand auction in aid of the Wild Tiger.

Joanna Lumley and Nicholas Parsons at the Tiger Gala in London's Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Knightsbridge

(Photo taken at 1/250, f/1.8, ISO 1600)

There was a wonderful variety of options to bid on, from  beautiful tiger-themed art, to days learning how to make chocolates, and a journey on the real-life Orient Express.

Nicholas Parsons hosting the Tiger Gala auction at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, London

(Photo taken at: 1/250, f/1.8, ISO 1600)

And with the end of the auction came the end of the event, and the end of my night.

Like Cinderella, I crept home as the clock struck midnight.. although as far as I remember she didn’t have to get the train home from Euston alongside fellow late-night travellers with sleepy, bobbing heads, in a carriage which echoed with the soft sound of  snoring.


3 thoughts on “The Tiger Gala

  1. What an exciting night, and such beautiful, enchanting images! They look wonderful all together like this, it’s almost like being there along with reading your story of the evening. I love love love the way you’ve used colour to capture so much of the atmosphere.

    I love this post, and revisiting all the gorgeous photographs. I especially love the detail shots.
    And Joanna Lumley of course!


  2. Joanna Lumley is lovely absolutely and so is Virginia McKenna. Loved her in the Born Free films and she has so selfishly given of her time and life to helping big cats in danger. Bravo to these 2 wonderful ladies!!

  3. Pingback: An evening with Wildaid. |

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