Party Of The Week: Variety is the spice

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The Independent Culture

On Sunday night, the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane opened its doors to the 56th Variety Club Showbiz Awards. While guests tucked into the green tea, crème brulée and petits fours that ended the three-course dinner, an auction to raise funds for the children's charity hit the heights as James McAvoy won an Apollo 11 presentation signed by Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong, for £10,000. One raffle-winner, Sir Ben Kingsley, generously returned his year's membership to the 25 Club to be auctioned.

Gibraltar pianist Aaron Monteverde treated guests to one of his flamenco-flavoured compositions. Later the crowd enjoyed an opera recital by Classical Performer of the Year Hayley Westenra and a lively appearance by the cast of Hairspray.

Michael Caine was given a standing ovation as he picked up his Outstanding Contribution award to the tune of "Simply the Best". He praised his wife Shakira "for being married to the same actor for 36 years". Caine won the New Talent award many years ago; this time it went to Colin Morgan, 22, star of the BBC television series Merlin.

After the audience watched a clip of McAvoy in Wanted, the Scottish star thanked the Variety Club "for using a clip on which I spit all over my face". The reason for his Film award? "Probably the amount of blows I took to the head."

The awards will be broadcast on Sky1 at 5pm on 30 November

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