The Bees for Development Garden Party is a key event in the calendar for everyone who is anyone in the ‘bee world’. Numerous bee friendly celebrities attend at this major fundraising event for the worthy charity which helps establish beekeeping and pollinating businesses across the globe.
Bees for development assist in farming and small business development in rural and developing countries using beekeeping in traditional methods.
I had wanted to attend for the past few years, and this year I was delighted to have made it!
Duchess of Cornwall
Every penny raised goes directly to the charity and it is well supported and sponsored by (my favourite store) Fortnum and Mason along with many other businesses and organisations connected with bees. Martha Kearney hosts the event with fellow trustee Bill Turnbull. This year the Duchess of Cornwall, (who also keeps bees) attended and spent the evening looking at each exhibit carefully, and with much interest.
Party gift bag
This year, acting on a flash of inspiration, I decided to offer copies of my book ‘A to Bees’ as a gift in the goodie bags. As the second edition is published this week, in full colour, I wanted to ensure that the first edition was in circulation and what better audience than attendees at this Garden Party?
Fellow bee team member, Rande, and I set off in the sunshine, with my van laden with copies of A to Bees ready for us to pop in the bags. Due to my decision only being a week before the event, I missed getting a mention in any of the brochures or publicity, but it felt like the right thing to be doing.
We arrived in London just as the showers had set in. Marlborough House is a beautiful mansion designed by Christopher Wren and completed in 1711. It is now the headquarters of the Commonwealth of Nations and situated on Pall Mall.
The gardens were set out with marquees and bee hives ready for the seven hundred guests who’d bought tickets. The larger marquee hosted the silent auction and the art exhibition, where bee themed illustrated postcards were framed. The artists ranged from celebrities who love bees to artists and musicians. Bids had been accepted via the website and then during the evening.
Fortnum and Mason were generously providing champagne and cocktails from their giant willow hamper and an open bar. Tables dressed with ceramic bee pots filled with lavender, and mini gardens planted by Tregothnan were perfect bee forage, but the rain kept the bees away.
Bee people gather together
Guests arrived ready for rain and dressed in outfits usually reserved for Glastonbury festival, wellies and brollies. Many had braved the weather with bee themed shoes and dresses. The Queen’s own beekeeper, was dressed in three layers of bee decorated shirts and jumpers!
It is rare to get so many bee people in one place and we delighted in meeting Steve Benbow from London Honey Company, with Nick who I’d met at the International London Honey Awards where we were both judging. Sarah Wyndham Lewis and Dale from Bermondsey Bees were also there. We delighted in meeting each other after many months of a virtual friendship on social media.
Beekeepers gathering together
Chris Park, the skep beekeeping guru, was there demonstrating so it was great to chat with him and gain some more wisdom on fine tuning my own skep making. Beekeepers from around the world were represented, two lovely ladies from India with samples of their Apis Dorsata and apis cerana honey to taste.
My personal highlight was meeting Gladstone Solomon from Trinidad. I had heard of him through both friends from the Caribbean and through the beekeeping world. He’s one of my heroes with his work on establishing beekeeping in rural and remote parts of the world.
He was absolutely adorable, and such a delight to meet. I do hope to be able to attend one of his Bee Safaris in the Caribbean and learn from his very many years of experience.
We also bumped into Anji from BJ Sherriff with her father’s freshly published book ‘Bras to Bees’. Alex Hertzel, the artist who designed the invitations and worked tirelessly on getting the event together with the other volunteers was showing off her very desirable bee shoes!
Overall it was a fabulous evening with delicious food and drink, all included in the ticket price, and of course a wonderful goodie bag to bring home!
The silent auction and the Bee Art Auction were extremely successful, raising much needed funds for this charity that have helped so many communities around the world improve both their own wellbeing but also that of bees.
Should you be tempted to attend the next one, I would definitely recommend it!