Justin Byam Shaw, the media and telecoms entrepreneur and Chairman of the Evening Standard, entered St James’s Church in Piccadilly.
The Fayre of St James’s is a seasonal charity event organised by Quintessentially Foundation and the Crown Estate in partnership with The Berkeley Foundation. This year it featured performances from Ellie Goulding, Keane’s Tom Chaplin and Stephen Fry among others and was perhaps a difficult engagement for Byam Shaw.
Just over three years ago, a similarly large crowd gathered at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford to commemorate the life of Byam Shaw’s late teenage son, Felix Byam Shaw. On 19 July 2014, while holidaying in France, Felix had succumbed to septicaemia brought about by a rare form of meningitis and died, aged 14.
As Byam Shaw explained in his reading on Tuesday evening, Felix had been both a kind boy and good sportsman; during one of his football tournaments, he played against a team from South London and had been upset to learn that many of the kids on the opposing side hadn’t had breakfast that morning.
Inspired by this kind-heartedness, Justin founded The Felix Project, an innovative new charity that collects fresh, unwanted nutritious food from donors such as Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Fortnum & Mason and distributes it to charities within London, so that they can provide healthy meals for the most vulnerable in our society.
Although The Felix Project is still in its infancy, its solution to both food waste and food poverty struck all the guests at the Fayre of St James’s as a just and worthy one to support that night. 1 in 10 children in the UK are living with parents who struggle to put food on the table and the funds raised through the event will go towards The Evening Standard and Independent’s Christmas Appeal 2017 ‘Help a Hungry Child’ ensuring that no child supported by The Felix Project ever goes to bed hungry. The Felix Project hopes to roll out Market Stalls of nutritious and free food across 120 schools across London in the next two years, allowing children to take home nourishing produce at the end of every day.
“I was as shocked as everyone when I was told that in London, there are 70,000 children whose families can’t afford breakfast,” said Stephen Fry, moments before he read aloud a particular apt passage from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. “It’s absolutely unbelievable that in the 21st century that could be the case.” James Blunt, also in attendance, echoed Fry’s sentiments. “It’s remarkable and terrible to learn in a city that’s probably one the wealthiest in the world,” he said, “children go without food.” Ellie Goulding concurred, saying it was “heart-breaking” that so many youngsters should go to school hungry.
Yet Geordie Greig, editor of the Mail on Sunday and close friend of the Byam Shaws’, offered the keenest insight on the night. He personally recalled Felix as “a boy who was an absolutely life enhancer,” who had, despite his death, enabled his parents to found such an ingenious philanthropic organisation. “What an incredible thing his father and mother have done,” Greig said, “to create something that helps others so efficiently; it has captured the hearts of so many people. I think people will remember this moment. This charity has a legacy and a lasting quality. It brings great things to people in great need.”
Greig’s words sounded prophetic as the guests left the church for a drinks reception and charity auction at Spencer House. In total the event raised £290,000, via collections and the sale of a series of sought-after lots, including lunch with Stephen Fry, a year’s membership to Annabel’s and five nights in the Maldives. Thanks to everyone in attendance on Tuesday night, that money will ensure otherwise unwanted food reaches those who need it most this Christmas, and for many Christmases to come.
To find out how you can help The Felix Project go here www.thefelixproject.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org