Hire a Hero – Gala Charity night
You’ve fought in the Falklands, completed trips to Afghanistan and Northern Ireland, perhaps seen awful things that many of us in our life will fortunately never see. Yet what does one do when leaving the service? How does one cope adjusting to what most of us consider everyday life? The yearly average net outflow from the armed forces is around 20,000. These individuals make the transition to civilian life, often with skills not recognised by employers.
Over 450 people packed the Metropole Hotel to pay tribute to our armed forces, in a Gala evening, mixed with high powered entertainment, chorus singing led by the wonderful voice of Donna Marie, mixed in with the military 24th Invicta Riffles playing over dinner, with further dance music from the late-night band ‘Souled Out’. Alongside this musical extravaganza we were further entertained by the comic banter from master of ceremonies Roger Deakin and the ever-popular Brain Conley. The occasion raised over £68,000 for the charity ‘Hire a Hero’. This organisation provides support for those who have worked in the armed forces and are now adopting to a regular life with possible employment issues, needing career guidance, training, welfare and maybe housing. These may seem regular events to most but leaving the forces after many years of service, some of the above are not necessarily easy to adopt to and that’s where ‘Hire a Hero’ come in to support these people who have given much to their country and now need us to help them. Some still suffering from life changing experiences.
Patron of the charity is comedy entertainer Brian Conley, who worked tirelessly all night doing auctions, raffles and in between food courses. Jokes, songs, moving effortlessly from table to table with amusing asides and bits of comedy business. There are those who sometimes see Conley only as a comedian, but forget he starred in several award winning West End musicals including ‘Jolson’ (1995) ‘Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang’ (2005) ‘Oliver’ (2012) showing a voice that would challenge theatres best, plus his pure acting skills in films such as ‘Circus’ (2000) ‘Arthurs Dyke’ (2002). He is the complete entertainer.
The evening was put together by Steve Darby and Jenna Freeman with a supporting committee enthusiastically happy that all was running to military order. Steve Darby is a charity events organiser, particularly when it comes to our armed forces. He is continually impressed with the work these young men and women do for us. Yet he himself does not have an army background, just a deep appreciation like others for what sacrifices some have made on our behalf.
The highlight of the night was the band ‘Souled Out’ who ended the evening with a two-hour set of cover music that kept everyone on the dance floor. The powerful musical line up of trumpet, saxophone and trombone, complemented by keyboards and drums made for a very strong sound with three singers inter cutting numbers and voices with solo’s, duo’s and full threesomes, the set was not only powerful but highly entertaining. Indeed, Brian Conley with his work completed for the evening making his way to his dressing room, but was encouraged by John Catherall (lead singer) to return to the stage and do one number with the band. Such impromptu singing and improvisation around the song ‘Mustang Sally’ was a classic live entertainment moment, adored by the dancing audience. Several serving officers showing an ability for ‘rock’ as opposed to the military two step.
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.