IT IS a rare opportunity to turn the tables on one of the fiercest interrogators around, all for a good cause.
A Scottish charity which helps people with mobility difficulties to lead independent lives is offering one lucky group of diners the chance to have a dinner date with veteran broadcaster Jeremy Paxman.
500 Miles, set up by quadruple amputee Olivia Giles, supports the development and delivery of prosthetic and orthotic services in countries such as Malawi, Zambia and Zanzibar.
As part of its latest fundraising effort, it is holding a one-off auction next month as part of its Big Dinner initiative, where one of the most coveted lots – number seven – consists of the chance to sit down and enjoy a meal with the former Newsnight anchor.
The charity hopes to raise enough money build a clinic in Lusaka, the Zambian capital, a resource that would help “transform” the lives of poor people with disabilities of the limbs and spine.
HIGHEST BID SO FAR: £1,000
Ms Giles, from Edinburgh, was working as a lawyer in 2002 when she caught meningococcal septicaemia and had to have her hands and feet amputated to save her life.
Five years later, she founded 500 Miles. The Big Dinner event, she explained, is its most ambitious undertaking yet.
She said: “This is probably the biggest and most significant fundraiser that 500 Miles will do. I hope the money raised will be the catalyst for building a 500 prosthetics and orthotics clinic in Lusaka. That’s not to say that we’ll spend the money we get on that, but I hope that having enough money in the bank will help us procure funding for the bricks and mortar.
“At the moment in Zambia, you have to be able to buy prosthetics and orthotics, which is awful. If we can get the clinic off the ground it will allow poor people access to life-transforming devices.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS
The dinner date will be held at one of Paxman’s favourite London restaurants, Murano, which was awarded a Michelin star just four months after it opened in 2008.
In a video produced to promote the event, Paxman encouraged people to take part and bid “stupendous” amounts of money.
He explained: “I’m offering you the chance to have lunch or dinner at a wonderful restaurant in London and I can’t promise you any of my niece’s wonderful banana cake, but I can promise that I won’t cook lunch or dinner.
“The four of you plus me will go to Murano, a fantastic restaurant, in aid of a wonderful charity, 500 Miles, and I hope you will be able to bid stupendous amounts of money for what will be a jolly nice meal.”
Bidding for the 7 March auction is open now and more than £10,000 has been bid to date. Other lots in the auction include the chance to dine with Colin Montgomerie at Gleneagles, Lorraine Kelly at The Wolseley and Christopher Biggins at Joe Allen.
Ms Giles, who left a letter with Mr Paxman at last year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival and was “delighted” when he got in touch to offer support, added: “This is a fantastic chance to ask Jeremy about iconic moments from his controversial and wide-ranging career.”
The auction is part of the charity’s Big Dinner event. Held across hundreds of homes and restaurants worldwide, it encourages people to host their own dinner and make an initial donation of £25. It is then up to them whether they ask guests for a fee or to make further donations.
On the night, the charity auction will also be held online, allowing diners to take part.
The scheme hopes to raise up to £500,000 over the duration of the evening.
To find out more and register a bid, visit www.bigdinner.co.uk/auction