Dinner With the Lords – WA 121st Annual Dinner – 17th June 2016

Dinner with the Lords

Three OW Peers were in attendance at the WA Annual Dinner on Friday June 17th…

This year’s Whitgiftian Association 121st Annual Dinner, hosted by WA President, Lord Tope, was a splendid affair with a capacity audience of 125 OWs of all generations in attendance including wives, partners, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters.

Pre-dinner drinks were served in the Peers’ Guest Room with its magnificent view over the Thames – enjoyed during a brief period of respite from the heavy rain that had greeted our arrival. Most were then treated to a tour of the Palace of Westminster prior to taking their seats in the Peers’ Dining Room to enjoy a really excellent four-course dinner.

WA President, Lord Tope (OW 1953-61), Chairman and host for the event, welcomed everyone to the House of Lords and asked for a one-minute silence as a sign of respect for MP Jo Cox who had been killed in tragic circumstances the previous day. He resumed by commenting on the encouragingly high percentage (38%) of young OWs present who had left the School since 2000. He went on to introduce two of his OW colleagues in the House of Lords: Lord Bowness and Lord Freud. The fourth OW Peer, Lord Freeman, also due to attend, was prevented from doing so for family reasons. He also welcomed eight previous Presidents of the Association, his immediate predecessor, Sir Keith Lindblom (OW 1966-74), together with his successor for the year 2017, Richard Bateman (OW 1967-74). Lord Tope also took the opportunity to refer to the recently launched WA Bursary Fund, which he hoped as many OWs as possible would support. He welcomed Naomi Newstead, representing the Fund, to the dinner and encouraged guests who might feel in a generous frame of mind to make themselves known to her.

After dinner, we were again privileged to be entertained by the remarkable young OW musician, Dan-Iulian Druţac (2013-2015). Dan-Iulian’s virtuoso performance of Ysaye’s 3rd Sonata on solo violin was rewarded by a standing ovation. Dan is now on a Full Scholarship at the Guildhall School of Music where he has been polishing his skills since leaving school last year.

Presiding over the after-dinner speeches with a toast to the guests, Lord Tope spoke of the profound effect of his Whitgift education, saying that he could only speculate on where he would have ended up without it – almost certainly not in the House of Lords! Referring to the forthcoming referendum on our future in or outside the EU (whilst not wishing to be drawn into a political discussion) and reflecting on the splendour of our surroundings, he reminded us of the importance of our historic parliamentary system and the inherent dangers of taking it for granted.

Responding, Mrs Patricia Hughes, ex-Chief Executive of Sutton Council who, when appointed, was one of only five females in similar positions throughout the country, spoke of her experiences as a “woman in a man’s world” and how she had observed things gradually improve for women during her professional life. Nevertheless, she believed there was still a long way to go before true parity was achieved throughout the business community and in public life generally. She thanked Lord Tope for inviting her to attend an old boys’ reunion that, somewhat to her surprise, she had thoroughly enjoyed!

OW Rumen Cholakov (2007-09) proposed the toast ‘Floreat Domus’ beginning with his heartfelt thanks to the School and its community as well as expressing his admiration for Dr Christopher Barnett who he described as a “headmaster with outstanding vision”.  Rumen came to this country from Bulgaria in 2007, leaving Whitgift to read history at Cambridge followed by a law conversion course. He is now about to qualify as a solicitor at corporate law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell.

Whitgift’s Headmaster of 25 years, Dr Christopher Barnett, who will be retiring at the end of the 2016/17 academic year, concluded with a brilliant speech describing what Whitgift offered to its current students – making many OWs wish they were attending Whitgift today!  He went on to talk about the “Remembering 1916 – Life on the Western Front” Exhibition, currently on at the School and enjoying wonderful reviews.

The formalities were rounded off with an unaccompanied rendition of “Carmen” (it gets better every year) after which the company dissembled into the rain-soaked night.


A truly memorable evening with thanks to the House of Lords staff and all those who contributed in every way.