David Parkin on the hottest ticket to the greatest show and the stars out at York

I’VE long held the view that the Firecracker Ball is the hottest ticket in the Yorkshire business and social calendar.

So when Martha Phillips from the Firecracker Ball committee rang to ask if I would be interested in being media partner for this year’s event I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

The annual event, which raises huge funds for Barnardo’s causes across Yorkshire, takes place in November at Rudding Park Hotel in Harrogate.

The Firecracker is a spectacular event and this year’s is no different with a Brazilian carnival themed backdrop and pop singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor entertaining the audience of 800 at the black tie ball.

Last year’s ball had an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland theme and the venue was so beautifully and ambitiously decorated and presented that guests felt they were descending through a rabbit hole to a vast underground kingdom, rather than a marquee.

It raised a staggering £270,000 for Barnardo’s and the event has raised £2.5m for the charity since its launch in 2002.

Previous themes have included the circus, the Roaring Twenties, the Wizard of Oz and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – complete with Oompa Loompas and a chocolate river which guests crossed by a bridge.

Firecracker chairman, the property entrepreneur Phil Taylor and his committee have created a charity event which achieves two key things – raising an enormous amount for a great cause whilst also ensuring sponsors and guests enjoy a fantastic experience.

That ensures that the event is always sold out and so if you are considering taking a table then now is the time to act.

As someone who comperes and hosts plenty of events, getting key clients, contacts and guests to attend events can sometimes prove a challenge but the Firecracker ensures that when it comes to invitations, you will hold the hottest ticket in town.

A glance around the room on the night will confirm that that the key people from Yorkshire business and beyond are in attendance.

Expect further announcements of high profile celebrity performances and exclusive auction prizes in the coming weeks.

Barnardo’s Relationship Manager, Kirsty Guy, said: “We are really grateful to David, and the companies and individuals who help us deliver this fantastic event to the highest standards, in the most cost-effective way, giving our participants the greatest support.

“Funds are helping to make sure Barnardo’s in Yorkshire can continue to offer services that are in strong demand by the local community, including support for young people leaving care, young carers, family support including a holiday club for children with complex health needs including physical disabilities, life limiting conditions and learning disabilities.”

Sophie Ellis-Bextor, whose biggest hits include ‘Murder on the Dance Floor’ and ‘GrooveJet (If this ain’t love)’, said: I’m excited to be performing at The Firecracker Ball, which everyone knows raises a significant amount of money for Barnardo’s every year.

“It’s a fantastic event and I feel privileged to have been asked. And as for this year’s Carnival theme, I’ll definitely make sure my performance ensures it lives up to it.”

Leeds-based Evans Property Group retains lead sponsorship of the event with UBS as co-sponsors, Source Marketing Communications, Phillip Stone the Jeweller and Team Print Services have also confirmed their sponsorship again.

The Firecracker Ball committee is actively seeking further support from individuals and businesses who are interested in sponsorship packages, table bookings or donating auction or other prizes for the charity.

For more information please contact Kirsty Guy 07522 216125/ kirsty.guy@barnardos.org.uk  or visit www.thefirecrackerball.co.uk.


RACEGOERS at York have been fortunate to experience many memorable occasions.

Hosting Royal Ascot in 2005, the triumph of racing great Frankel by seven lengths in the Juddmonte International Stakes in 2012 and the emptying out of the champagne bar after Ladies Day at the Ebor meeting.

This year’s Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival delivered another significant moment yesterday.

Mark Johnston broke the all-time record number of British winners for a racehorse trainer.

Poet’s Society – ridden by Frankie Dettori – won a handicap race at York to give the Scot his 4,194th victory.

The 20-1 shot took Johnston, 58, past the mark set by Richard Hannon Sr, who retired in 2013.

Johnston, who is based in Middleham in the Yorkshire Dales, trained his first winner in 1987 and his victories have earned £53m in prize money.

After saddling nine runners yesterday without achieving a winner, it seemed appropriate that racing’s Greatest Showman, Frankie Dettori, rode the record breaker as it enabled his signature flying dismount leap from the saddle in the winners’ enclosure.

This cracking photo was captured by Malcolm Cowing, former director at marketing agency Brass and now race goer and golfer.

Unfortunately this was the only decent thing Malcolm gave me yesterday as his tips were useless.

Johnston was congratulated by Sir Gary Verity of Welcome to Yorkshire and many racing notables before being presented with the trophy for winning the Clipper Logistics Handicap by Joanne Parkin, wife of Steve Parkin, founder and executive chairman of Leeds-based Clipper.

I bumped into Steve after the race and agreed it hadn’t been a bad day as his horse, the Richard Fahey trained Red Balloons, won the previous race at a nice 33-1 price.

I have spent the last two days with Welcome to Yorkshire at the Ebor and yesterday’s guests in the Melrose Stand box certainly could have been described as sporting legends without a hint of hyperbole.

Brendan Foster, Eddie Gray and Geoffrey Boycott were all great company.

As well as being an Olympic long distance runner and former BBC athletics commentator, Brendan founded the Great North Run which takes place next month and with 57,000 competitors, is now the largest mass participation event in the world.

He has also been Sir Gary’s deputy chairman for the Great Exhibition of the North which has been hosted by Newcastle/Gateshead this summer.

Discussion yesterday turned to the other major event taking place in the North this summer – Britney Spears performing at Scarborough last week.

The Yorkshire sun failed to shine for La Spears but reports suggest the sold out concert was a success.

Although according to attendees like Ian Gillies, leader of York City Council, Britney didn’t really personalise her message to fans in Yorkshire – when she walked on stage she shouted: “Hello UK”.

“My lad performed at Scarborough last year,” said another of yesterday’s guests, Geoff Wilson.

Geoff is the father of Kaiser Chiefs lead singer Ricky Wilson and had a distinguished career in TV working on shows for the BBC and LWT and eventually becoming responsible for the BBC’s outside broadcasts including sporting events and royal weddings.

His stories of some of the shows and the stars he worked with were fascinating.

Who needs Britney Spears?


ONE of the most impressive things about the Firecracker Ball is its consistent quality, year after year.

Part of that must go down to its long-time host, author and former BBC and ITV presenter Jon Hammond.

I know Jon reads this blog because I sometimes get a little bon mot from him.

Last week Jon didn’t just use his expansive command of words to respond to my blog, but a picture as well.

I recounted my experience on a trip on a motor yacht on the Humber Estuary.

Jon emailed me with the subject heading: ‘The Paparazzi were out last week in Hull’.

The email contained the message: “As always, very much enjoy your Friday missive. Did you spot the snapper last week in Hull (pic attached!!)”

Bearded man in sailor style outfit holding binoculars

I think I look quite good.

And given Jon always dresses up for the theme of the Firecracker – he was the Mad Hatter last year and Willy Wonka previously – I can’t wait to find out what this year’s outfit will be given it is a Brazilian carnival theme.

Can I suggest Carmen Miranda or Brazilian beachwear?

Have a great weekend.


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