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Glastonbury Festival Pyramid Stage Abseil Most Successful Event in Charity's History

26 Sep 2014

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It was a weekend which had been months in the planning, billed as SOS Africa’s biggest fundraising venture to date, and after all of the hard-work, it didn’t disappoint. I believe that to be successful, a fundraising event requires four key ingredients in equal measure; a great venue, passionate fundraisers, enthusiastic volunteers and support from the local community. Last weekend’s event was blessed by bucket-loads of all four!

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Click here to view all of our Pyramid Stage Abseil Photos

When the SOS Africa think-tank met about 9 months ago to chat about possible venues for our 2014 annual fundraising event, Glastonbury Festival’s Pyramid stage, suggested by Claudia, was very much scribbled under the column “Dream Venues.” When Michael Eavis gave us the go ahead shortly after, we knew that this could be a defining moment in the charity’s brief history. Since that day, Michael and his team have embraced our project and assisted us wherever needed and even entered staff to participate in the event.

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Within moments of uploading our joint press releases in April, the response from SOS Africa supporters and Glastonbury Festival lovers alike was overwhelming; within a few hours the SOS Africa website had received over 5000 hits and within a few days our event was half full! Right from the word go these dedicated teams, from all four corners of our United Kingdom, set about organising exciting and ambitious fundraising initiatives in pursuit of their fundraising targets. In the months leading up to the event we would receive a constant flow of energetic emails about cake sales, baked bean baths and even pub festival events, as our fundraising total continued to increase. This commitment extended into the event itself as fundraisers got creative, sporting a vast array of hilarious, quirky and sometimes shameless costumes as they flocked towards the Pyramid Stage on Saturday morning. The winner of our fancy dress competition will be decided by a public vote via the Shepton Mallet Journal next week.

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Throughout the weekend it also became clear just what the festival and its iconic stage means to music lovers from across the globe; many stories of festivals past were exchanged and prolonged debates held as they adjusted to the tranquil life of Worthy Farm without the usual festival chaos. Some of our participants were even lucky enough to be able to thank Michael Eavis in person for making these many years of memories possible.

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Looking back, what struck me most about the two day event was the incredible way in which each of the teams embraced the SOS Africa cause. What started as excitement for the opportunity to abseil from the stage gradually changed into delight at what could be achieved with the incredible amount of funds raised. Group targets of £1000 soon increased to £1500, £2000 and beyond. At present, our grand total has just passed the £40,000 mark – unprecedented in the charity’s fundraising history and far beyond our wildest expectations. These invaluable funds will be invested in the charity’s first Aftercare Centre build and will benefit Africa’s underprivileged children for generations to come.

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We were also greatly moved by some of our team’s powerful stories. “Fiona’s Festival Friends” entered into the event to raise funds in memory of their close friend, mother and wife, who intended to participate in the event, but sadly died of cancer a few months ago. We were so delighted that this special group of people were able to use the event to celebrate Fiona’s life. Michael Eavis also kindly stopped by especially to meet this group and share some of their memories. It was also great to see 6 year old Lyla and Freya, our youngest fundraisers abseil fearlessly from the Pyramid Stage roof.

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Shortly after the event, I received the following message from a loyal SOS Africa supporter and good friend: “It’s all about the support given by your family and friends and their love for the cause.” This for me best summarises the invaluable contribution made by the SOS Africa volunteers on the day. These selfless people have attended SOS Africa’s fundraising events since the charity was founded 11 years ago – we simply wouldn’t be able to organise these events without their loyalty and are forever indebted to them. We also owe a great deal to Frankie and her fantastic team of abseil instructors for guaranteeing the safety of all 300 of our brave Abseilers. It was the first event we have organised since the passing of Bruce Blagden, the company’s founder earlier this year. In memory of Bruce the SOS Africa volunteers all wore black armbands on the day. We know that Bruce will be very proud of Frankie and her team for making the event such a success.

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The final word has to go to the local community. Since our first SOS Africa shop opened in Shepton Mallet 2 years ago, we have been overwhelmed by offers of support from local Rotary Clubs, WI Groups, Community Groups, farms, schools and businesses. We would like to thank the following groups for their contribution to the Pyramid Stage Abseil: Michael Eavis, Yasha and the Glastonbury Festival Team; Claudia and her band of bunting makers; our volunteers Ann, Dave, Emma, James, Martin, Steve, Beth, Poppy, Xavier and Val; Freya Rose-Ellis our very talented face painter; Marie and her team at the Cobblers in Shepton Mallet; Alan Price and The Hire Shed for lending us generators for the event; Matt from Speckled Wood Designs for producing the medals; Finn Christensen for allowing us to use his farm to access the stage; Nial and his RiteBite team for organising the catering; our good friend and neighbour John for supplying the sound system; Robert from Mendip Moments Ice Cream; Rachel and Shelli our first aiders on the day; Cranmore Community Group and Phil Parry for supplying the marquees; Richard and his team from Richard Lycett Photography; and Fuchsia from the Shepton Mallet Journal for covering the event.

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As the sun set on another SOS Africa fundraising event and our teams headed home, we heard many a call of "can we do it again next year" and “see you at the cider bus in June 2015.”

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By Matt Crowcombe (Director, SOS Africa)

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