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Challengers Chat: March 2018
In this edition of Challengers Chat, Ken Mead writes about the evening when some of our incredible volunteers went to spend an evening at 10 Downing Street!
Nine volunteers from Challengers, including myself – hello I am Ken Mead – were nominated to represent Challengers at a reception at 10 Downing Street at the beginning of February. It was hosted by the Right Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. As you can imagine we were all so excited to be nominated and have the opportunity to go to Number 10, having never thought we would ever get the chance to see behind the iconic door.
I was asked to be the lead for the day and look after all the volunteers who had been nominated, which I was very excited about and I took very seriously to make sure all arrived safely at the door! An itinerary with timings was set up and we all met up under the clock at Waterloo, jumped in to black cabs and off we went to Downing Street…
The weather was a little cold and so we were quite pleased we did not have to wait too long before being let through the first gate and that was just to get past the first security checkpoint – the security was incredible. We had to show our invitations and back it up with ID, we then had to go through a security hut – just like the airport security with metal detectors and scanning devices. We were then given clearance to enter Downing Street, as we walked towards the iconic door it was opened by a very smart doorman who ushered us in to the marble hallway. We had to pass over our mobile phones and leave them in numbered cubby holes – it was all very exciting.
It was at this point all of our eyes were on stalks when starting to ascend the famous staircase with all the portraits of past prime ministers displayed in order, the top being David Cameron. We were shown in to the first meeting room but there were other rooms that interconnected – there was just so much to take in! We were offered a drink and then the delicious canapes arrived – we felt very spoiled…
We couldn’t quite believe that we were then allowed to wander in to any of the rooms that were open, the state dining room was just one of the stunning rooms, the ceilings, the paintings and the collection of silverware was extremely impressive. In the White Room, which was Churchill’s bedroom – three Turner paintings were amongst the many priceless pieces of art on show. We found out that each prime minister can choose what art they want on display and the rest goes back in to storage. The views from the main rooms are also stunning, one way looks over the rose garden and the other way looks over Horse Guards – the place is vast. I had no idea how big it was and that we were going be able to see so many of the state rooms.
There were other charities that had also been invited to the reception, and in total there were about 100 guests. We all gathered to listen to Matt Hancock address the room and thank us for being some of the many thousands of people that volunteer for different charities throughout the UK. He said it was his pleasure to recognise the volunteers’ contributions by holding the reception. He only spoke for 10 minutes which then gave more time to have more of a nose in some of the other rooms including Maggie’s old study which had the most impressive table where she wrote her speeches.
About five minutes before chucking out time me and the other Challengers volunteers decided that if we left then we would have a better chance of getting a group photo outside the famous door. The next challenge was – who is going to take the photos?! It didn’t seem quite right to ask one of the Police who were in full body armour and brandishing automatic weapons so we decided we would ask the next person that came out of number 10 to take the group photo. Well, the next person that came out was none other than the Minister and his assistant, so we asked him and instead of him taking the photo he was then ushered to be in the photo that was taken by his assistant!
We then all went our separate ways having had an experience of a lifetime!
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