The Circle's 10th Anniversary
On June 20th 2018, members of The Circle past and present gathered together at White City House to celebrate our first decade of Women Empowering Women.
There is nothing quite like a rooftop location in London on a bright summer’s day. Especially when it comes with the spectacular view from the newest Soho House venue that is located in the old BBC studios, known well to some of our evening’s guests such as foreign correspondent journalist Lindsey Hilsum. As our members and guests arrived from near and far they were met by the smiling faces of friends old and new. Livia Firth, Lucy Siegle and Jessica Simor QC were seen catching up along with Jane Wellesley, Sabrina Guinness and Melanie Hall QC. Antonella Di Pietro, Anna Maria Rugarli and Antonella Centra joined us from the world of Italian fashion while Professor Pamela Gillies joined us from Scotland. Stepping out onto the balcony guests shared the view of the city and made new friends such as Dr Larisa Corda and Karis McLarty.
Thanks to our wonderful event drink sponsors, Audemus Spirits and their delicious Pink Pepper Gin, our guests could unwind from their busy days with a Pink Pepper Gin and Aromatic Tonic (kindly sponsored by Fever Tree). Sharon Bylenga, Jill Wyman, Elske Willenborg and Liz Kanter shared their plans to build new Circles, while Shirley Popham, Dr Becky Cox, Sue Jackson, Jane Robson-Blanchard, Santosh Bhanot, Falguni Desai, Deepti Yadav and Pushpinder Chowdhry represented the success of the Circles they have already developed. Doctors talked with CEOs, mums met dancers, sisters shared stories with lawyers, actors and photographers rubbed shoulders with teachers and students. Annie’s vision of connecting women from all walks of life had truly come to life.
The evening’s programme began as Sioned Jones, The Circle’s Executive Director, welcomed us all and shared some highlights from The Circle over the past 10 years —140,000 women and girls supported in over 16 countries by the raising of over £2.5m, game changing legal analysis reports on the rights of women, advocacy on numerous issues of the gender inequality faced by millions of women and girls every day and plenty of amplifying the voices of those women and girls so they are heard. We had much to celebrate!
Our founder Annie Lennox then took to the stage. There was a sparkle in Annie’s eyes as she reminisced about the Top of the Pops and the very first gathering in her favourite wine bar where our founding members made a commitment to use their voices, influence and resources to ensure that the most vulnerable women and girls across the globe are able to realise their rights. Annie brought us back to the task at hand by talking about how men in power had in recent times provided a catalyst for global feminism that is and must continue to grow, not only for the women bravely speaking out in the #MeToo campaign, but also for the most marginalised and disempowered women around the world. It is the latter who face the greatest challenges of gender inequality.
Annie’s words rang true as we were further moved by The Circle’s video of Siyanda telling her story and sharing her journey with the Nonceba Women’s Shelter, one of the grass-roots projects supported by The Circle through our commitment to end gender-based violence.
To help us celebrate this important milestone, the moving inspiring speeches were finished off by a live performance by Beverley Knight. Beverley, one of the women who joined Annie on that first gathering in 2008, raised our spirits as her powerful voice resonated through the floor of dancing feet, to the skies through the beautiful ceiling and walls of White City House. Beverley kicked off her set with “Keep this Fire Burning” —very apt because, with these 10 years behind us and much still to be done, that is exactly what we intend to do!
Then guests retreated to carry on their networking and help raise funds by participating in a silent auction that had vinyl albums by the Eurythmics signed by Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, tickets to the London premiere of the new film “Mary Poppins Returns” donated by Colin and Livia Firth and framed lyrics of “Sweet Dreams” hand written and signed by Annie.
To mark this special anniversary The Circle has partnered up with SeeMe, an ethical jewellery brand that employs women, often single mothers, who have suffered violence and were ostracized from their communities in Tunisia. The sleek heart-shaped brand of SeeMe has been connected with a circle to form a unique range of ethical jewellery to celebrate women empowering women. The collection was launched and sold at the event. By the end of the evening necks, wrist and hands were decorated with new jewellery that truly symbolises the vision of The Circle, connecting us to each other, the women who made them and the women of The Circle’s projects. You can buy them too on the SeeMe website.
As guests left it was fabulous seeing so many donning their “Sisters are Doin’ It for themselves” t-shirts, which were also available at the event.
It was a fantastic evening which reinforced our members’ commitment to stand together and challenge and change the injustices facing so many women and girls around the globe.