Over 500 guests, including celebrities and politicians, attended Stonewall’s annual Equality Dinner at London’s Dorchester Hotel last night. The Dinner, hosted by Stella Duffy, raised a record-breaking £394,000 to support Stonewall’s campaigns against homophobia in Britain and worldwide. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe attended the Dinner – the first time a leader of Britain’s largest police force has attended such a major gay equality event.
Dinner guests included Clare Balding, Gok Wan, Val McDermid, Alice Arnold and MPs John Bercow, Nick Herbert, Diane Abbott, Angela Eagle and Chris Bryant. Christopher Biggins led a live auction, with lots including tea with Tony Blair, champagne with Jennifer Saunders and VIP tickets to Elton John’s show in Las Vegas. Boy George DJed at the after-dinner party.
Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies host Dr Christian Jessen gave an emotional speech during dinner, in which he spoke about a school friend who had taken his own life after being homophobically bullied. ‘It’s a shocking fact that over half of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils experience homophobic bullying,’ he said, ‘and I think it’s embarrassing and shameful that in 2013 there are still young people, like my friend Paul, who struggle to understand why what they are seems to matter so much more than who they are.’
Stonewall Deputy Chief Executive Laura Doughty said: ‘Homophobia remains a huge problem in Britain’s schools, and in 80 countries worldwide it’s illegal to be gay. These are just two of the challenges we’re dealing with every single day. We know we face a huge challenge in making homophobia thing of the past, and we’re enormously grateful to everyone who made this evening such a huge success.’
The Stonewall Equality Dinner was supported by Aviva, and Sir Elton John, Tony Blair, Val McDermid and Graham Norton were among those who donated lots for the auctions. Lots included a meet-and-greet experience with Ian McKellen in New York, dinner dates with Gok Wan, Clare Balding and Alice Arnold, VIP tickets to the MTV Europe Music Awards and a Maggi Hambling painting.