BWC 75th Anniversary at the Radisson Blu
- Posted by Sandra Evans
- On 1. March 2022
This “Save the Date” was one with a question mark, as have been so many events over the past year. The Ball was intentionally planned for later in the year in the hope it would be possible. Happily, as the date neared, we could erase the question mark. This celebration was going ahead.
Guests were assembled in the room adjoining the Ballroom when Geraldine and I arrived at the hotel. On entering we were offered a glass of bubbly by the attentive bar staff and on the high party tables, donned with both the German and the British flags of “Freundship”, were plates ofcanapés which looked rather tempting. Coats off and where to buy our raffle tickets? Ally and Catherine were doing a brisk trade in selling them, as the prizes were very attractive indeed. Soon Irene, our Treasurer, arrived and joined them.
The club loves a party and this special occasion was truly one to celebrate and one to really dress up for. There were ball gowns, cocktail dresses, trouser ensembles, jumpsuits and Vimla in her beautiful sari. The men didn’t look too bad either, some sporting dinner jackets. After enduring all the Covid restrictions and various cancellations, we were incredibly glad that the evening was possible and this was just what we needed, a Ball. Everyone was looking amazing in their finery and so looking forward to a good night out. There was a lot of chatter and laughter with the atmosphere becoming quite jolly after a drink, or in some cases two.
Soon we were asked to take our places in the Europasaal Ballroom, which had been decorated so beautifully by the Committee predominantly in red, white and blue. There were 9 tables set to accommodate the 72 members and guests. Each table had a name from the greats of literature and poetry, German, Australian, English, Welsh and Scottish. Our table was named “Heine”, after Heinrich Heine, who hailed from Düsseldorf. The Book Club ladies were very fittingly on the Bronte table; other tables were called Tennyson, Paterson (Australian bush poet), Goethe, Yeats, Burns, Shakespeare and Dylan Thomas, otherwise known as the “Shakespeare of Wales” and renowned for his fictional seaside town of “Llareggub”,which if you read backwards you’ll know what it’s all about. Each table name was accompanied with a corresponding quotation. One of Churchill’s readily came to mind: “A nation that forgets its past, has no future”. We, as a club, and North Rhine Westphalia, as a State, both celebrate the past, yet look to the future. On one side of the room were tables for the buffet and on the other side the disco had been set up with life size cardboard cut-outs of the Sussexes, the Cambridges and our Queen. A lot of care and attention had been paid to the organization and decoration.
Alison, our Madam Chairman, in her beautiful silver sparkling dress, welcomed the club’s Honorary President, Theresa Courage, her husband, HM Consul-General, Rafe Courage, and all the members and their guests to the 75th Anniversary of the British Women’s Club. Not only was herdress sparkling, her sparkling and bubbly personality shone through, too. She reminded us of the founders of the club back in 1946, just a year after the end of World War II. These were British women who had been attached to the staff of the Commissioner, Mr. William Asbury, probably his wife as well, but some who were married to Germans and had lived here through the war. They all were away from their homeland, many had suffered loss, hardship and deprivation and they joined together as The British Wives’ Club to alleviate homesickness and to do good deeds in the area. Alison told us that the club was registered as “The British Women’s Club e.V Düsseldorf” in 1966. She paid tribute to the Great Dames of the club, who are no longer with us, but who were respected and remembered with great affection: Betty Stollwerck, Jennie Frege, Jean Hunter-Schulz, Erika Jansen and Beatrice Stadelbauer to mention just a few, whose personal history included the wartime. She listed the anniversaries of the past, which had also been celebrated in style: the 40th in the Interconti under Jennie Frege; the 50th in the Breidenbacher Hof under Bernie Lindop; the 60th in the Steigenberger Park Hotel, which I had the honour of organizing with help of my Committee, where Catherine Roth was a member too, the 65th in the Old Residence on Rotterdammer Strasse under Linda Longsden and the 70th in the ArabesQ Restaurant under Tricia Roberts.
And going down in history will be this evening’s 75th Anniversary Ball at the Radisson Blu under Alison Benedickter and her capable Committee. When the cardboard cut-out of Prince Harry and Meghan fell over, she quipped “Meghan, behave yourself !” There was great laughter and at the end of her speech, which was delivered with confidence, charm and humour, great applause. Interestingly, we have come full circle, as in 1986 for the 40th Birthday Bash it was in the Interconti, which today is the Radisson.
The Buffet was then officially opened. We were truly spoilt for choice. You could have freshly carved roast beef or pork, fish, potato gratin, buttered vegetables or Ebly with wild mushrooms. For starters there were various salads, smoked salmon and a cream of parsnip soup. Desserts didn’t disappoint either with chocolate tart, caramel trifle, berry casserole and vanilla sauce and a very healthy option of fresh fruits.
The lights were lowered and a trolley was rolled in by Alison and Catherine. It was our Birthday cake, a rectangular Union Jack with 75th in the middle, surrounded by lots of small circular cakes also topped with the British colours of red, white and blue. The disco lights, again red, white and blue, flashed and we sang a very jazzy “Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday to you… … … … ….” By this time, we were all so full, we didn’t have room for cake. The cake was later available for those who wanted some or you could take some home.
Rafe Courage then took the floor, congratulating the club on its special birthday and thanking Alison and her Committee for organizing this evening. Of course, this year was also a special anniversary for the State of North Rhine Westphalia. Back in 1946 the British Government acted as marriage broker in what was termed “Operation Marriage” bringing together the province of Westphalia and the northern parts of the Rhine province. A year later the former State of Lippe was added. In the centre of the State’s Court of Arms is the Red Rose of Lippe. Rafe went on to tell us about the special relationship between Britain and Germany, and especially between Britain and the State of North Rhine Westphalia with Düsseldorf as its capital. The city is calling this anniversary one of “Freundship” because of it and Greater Manchester and the
Ruhr Area have twinned this year. The twinning of Düsseldorf and Reading goes back to 1946. Rafe wished the club many more happy birthdays.
Alison and Catherine returned with another trolley overflowing with three hampers in varying sizes from Marks and Spencers and a special prize of a night at the Radisson with meals and use of Wellness and Gym facilities. Raffle time! The delighted winners came up to claim their prizes. Alison thanked everyone for their generosity in buying raffle tickets, which will help our chosen charities. She introduced and thanked our DJ for the night, Theo Fitsos. She went on to praise and thank the Chef and the staff of the hotel, and especially her committee, both of whom had truly done us proud and made this Anniversary Ball so very special.
With more flashing lights, continuing in good British tradition of red, white and blue, we could take to the dance floor. The D.J. Theo played many different genres of music and started off with Gloria Gaynor singing “I will survive” and “It’s Raining Men” from the Weather Girls. We danced to various renditions by Adele and Queen and some good Oldies from the 60’s including ABBA. The music was infections and we were soon gyrating our hips and when “Let’s Twist Again” came along we were twisting away. Not only was there dancing but you could hear singing along too. “You are the Dancing Queen, young and sweet, only… was it 70” ! Well, 75 doesn’t rhyme. And we were certainly “Having the time of your life, diggin’ the Dancing Queen”.
Midnight approached all too quickly, and slowly people started to leave, though the hardcore stayed longer until 1 a.m. In the reception room was the display of poppies available for a donation. They were from the Poppy Appeal of the British Legion to be worn on Remembrance Day in November where all the fallen of all the wars are honoured and remembered. Alongside was the framed notice of the British Women’s Club AGM from the year 1948 to be held at the Düsseldorf Yacht Club on the afternoon of Tuesday, 21st December. This was found in a house clearance in the North of England. The company researched it and found details of the club with an address for Tricia Roberts, who has framed it for us for prosperity. So, although many records have been lost over the years, we do now know that the name of the club must have changed in 1948 or it could have been 1947. The AGM would have been in those days for the financial end of year, whereas now we have it in February of the following year.
Geraldine was staying the night with me and it was such a change and treat to have someone to go with and come home with. There were a lot of ladies on their own but in our club, you are never alone when attending an event. At home we relaxed over a glass of Ginger Wine, having had a wonderful time celebrating the special birthday of a special club. Actually, we had a Ball !
A huge thanks to Alison and all the committee for organizing such a memorable Anniversary Ball. Another milestone to go down in the history of our illustrious club. It was indeed a Party to remember!