The Presidents Club Charity Dinner is an annual, men-only, event that raises a phenomenal amount of money for various causes across the UK. These causes include Great Ormond Street Hospital as well as many other children’s charities. It was also the scene of numerous counts of sexual harassment against the hostesses during the event.
As reported by Madison Marriage of the Financial Times, 130 women were hired as hostesses and told to wear revealing black dresses with matching underwear and high heels. They were also told they could drink alcohol as they worked.
Reporter Madison Marriage goes undercover at one of London's most successful but secretive charity dinners. The Presidents Club Charity Dinner is a fundraiser like ‘something out of the 1970s’.
— Financial Times (@FinancialTimes) January 23, 2018
Ms Marriage went undercover at the event and detailed her experiences to BBC Newsnight.
“I was groped several times and I know there are numerous other hostesses who said the same thing happened to them. It’s a hands up skirts, hands on bums but also hands on hips, hands on stomachs, arms going round your waist unexpectedly”.
She went on to say: “This isn’t, I suppose, a high-level groping, but one of the strangest things was you could be talking to a man and he’d suddenly start holding your hand. I knew stuff like that might happen on the night but I wasn’t 100% sure. But there are plenty of other women there who had absolutely no idea that was the kind of event it would be and I had one woman tell me that she was shocked. She was asked if she was a prostitute on the night”. There were also reports of the men exposing themselves to the hostesses.
In light of the events, Great Ormond Street have said that they will return previous donations from the organisers.
“All monies raised in our name go to support vital work. However, due to the wholly unacceptable nature of the event we are returning previous donations and will no longer accept gifts from the Presidents Club Charitable Trust”.
David Meller who was the co-organiser of the event has stepped from his role in the Dept of Education.
Conservative MP Anne Milton says co-organiser of the Presidents Club charitable dinner David Meller is stepping down from his role as non-executive director at the Department for Education after allegations of sexual harassment at the event
— Sky News Newsdesk (@SkyNewsBreak) January 24, 2018
The Presidents Club released a statement in response to the report by Ms Marriage.
“The organisers are appalled by the allegations of bad behaviour at the event asserted by the Financial Times reporters. Such behaviour is totally unacceptable. The allegations will be investigated fully and promptly and appropriate action taken”.
The Dorchester hotel which hosted the event has launched an investigation.
The largest marketing firm in the world, WPP, has pulled all future funding for the event.
One of the prizes up for auction was tea with the governor of the Bank of England. However, a spokesperson for the Bank of England said: “The Bank of England did not approve any prize for auction on the occasion described nor would it have for that organisation under its guidelines for charitable giving”.
They went on to say that anyone who had secured the prize would not be permitted to use it.