“I’m very grateful for things like Downton Abbey that give me the profile to be able to attract people, stand up on my hind legs and say join us,” says Jim Carter, best known for his portrayal of Mr Carson in the ITV series.
Dressed down and decidedly above stairs at Clublounge39 in One Canada Square, he’s some distance from the impeccably turned out butler.
Perspiring and rehydrating sparingly with Prosecco he explains it’s his first visit to Canary Wharf and he’s taken numerous wrong turns ahead of the launch of Richard House Children’s Hospice’s Premium Partners scheme on Tuesday, November 8.
“This is not my world at all, I got completely lost,” he says. “I met a series of lunatics who pointed me in different directions – ‘Take a shortcut via Monsoon, then go to Pret’.
“Then a man took pity and ran after me saying ‘No, no, no you’re going completely the wrong way’. So I’ve arrived a bit sweaty.”
He and his wife, Imelda Staunton are long standing patrons of Richard House in Beckton and are in attendance to add gloss to the unveiling of the its latest fund raising initiative.
The scheme is designed to offer partnerships to companies or individuals able to pledge funds over the course of a year, especially those who would like to become involved more closely with the charity.
Jim says: “We’re encouraging people to develop a real relationship with Richard House.
“Not many people really know what a children’s hospice is or the reality of living with a child who has a life limiting condition that means they’re not going to see adulthood; the pressure that puts on relationships, mums and dads and siblings. The emotional stress is immense.
“But the hospice is not doom and gloom, it’s positive. The people who work there have such big hearts. If you get a chance to visit, do. It’s a life-enhancing experience and it’s easy for Imelda and I to support its cause.”
Imelda became a patron 14 years ago after performing at a concert organised by Victoria Wood, who lent her support when asked by her PA, a friend of the charity’s fund raising team.
She arrives mid-way through the evening, tired from a day dancing with Joanna Lumley while filming forthcoming feature film Finding Your Feet at Hackney Empire.
However, it’s not long before she grabs the mic and, after a brief introduction, decides the best way to encourage generosity is an a cappella rendition of Mary Carpenter’s Why Walk When You Can Fly.
Then mother and daughter Ruksana and Humiara Hussain whose son and brother Haider, 14, receives care at Richard House, give a moving account of their experiences before Clifford Chance partner Michael Crossan explains the benefit of being in partnership with the charity.
And for Jim, it’s these tangible stories of those the charity helps that make supporting it worthwhile.
He says: “You look at the world now, Syria and refugees and you think how can I help? How can I solve that?
“How can texting ‘blanket’ or pledging £3 really help there?
“Then you see these families and you think that’s help when you know where it goes and you know the effect it will have.
“But it’s a symbiotic relationship. Donors big cheques, which is very nice, of course, but they also get involved and volunteer and they get as much from that as they put in.”
For those who missed Jim in Canary Wharf and are suffering significant Downton withdrawal there’s good news.
He’s currently filming Knightfall in Prague, a fictional historical drama series set at the time of the Knights Templar around the 13th century.
“I’m playing, rather bizzarely the Pope,” says Jim. “I’ve no idea when it’ll be on your screens, it’s an American production.
“As for the part, I just put on the costume and it does all the work for me.”
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