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Guest Blog: Janet Hodgson, Filmmaker-in-residence

Winning the National Lottery Awards in style!

Ever since I first bumped into some of the charity’s collectors - Ted Roberts, now sadly passed away, and Dickie Forrester, impressively decked out in military regalia, standing in Canary Wharf station raising money for a trip to The Netherlands in a convoy of black cabs in 2012, my immediate thought was 'why on earth don’t more people know about this?' Since then, I’ve accompanied the charity on three trips to The Netherlands with my camera in tow, organised music events, made a documentary, produced content for the charity’s website… all with the aim of drawing attention to its wonderful work. I’ve also introduced the charity to many new people and contacts, including global ad agency Ogilvy, Chelsea College of Art and the Chalke Valley Music Festival to name but a few. During this time, the charity itself has really gone from strength to strength. So, it is with such delight to have seen it voted the winner in the National Lottery Awards 2016. It was a great honour to have co-organised, on behalf of the charity, and working with the National Lottery and the BBC, the Collectors' Summer Tea Dance at the Royal Hospital Chelsea a couple of weeks ago.

My role was, essentially, to organise a great party for the veterans, which the BBC film crew could ‘drop in’ on, with former Strictly finalist Katie Derham in tow, and film it all for the National Lottery Awards show.

Having worked with the charity for some time now, and organised several musical events, this was something of a dream come true! I found a great music act - The D-Day Darlings - who knew exactly what was needed - and brought in Swing Patrol London, who I’ve worked with before, and who sent along 15 incredible and very well-dressed and well-briefed dancers. We already had the most beautiful venue in the form of the State Apartments at Royal Hospital Chelsea. All that was then needed was for the veterans to remind us all how to have a good time! You never really know whether an idea involving people will really work - perhaps in particular when the people are in their 90s! So I must admit the whole day began with some trepidation. In fact, I could barely believe how well it all went. I have longed to see whether an event involving younger people and the veterans could work, and it worked better than I could ever have imagined. It was a completely unique combination of people - a truly multi-generational event, with everyone - dancers, drivers, veterans - really enjoying themselves, and a real reminder of the meaning of camaraderie. I don’t think the BBC could believe their eyes!

They used footage of the tea dance for a short film which was shown before the charity was given its award. This is available to view on BBC iPlayer until 12 October:

One of the dancers said to me at the end of the day: "Is this going to be happening every month? When is the next one?" Now, I wonder if that's possible… Watch this space!

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