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On 14 June, the world looked on in horror as news emerged of a fire engulfing Grenfell Tower, a block of public housing flats in North Kensington. Despite firefighters battling through the night, approximately 71 inhabitants lost their lives and a further 70 were left injured.
Like many, Edward Bracken, general manager of the Crowne Plaza London Kensington hotel, felt compelled to help, and he quickly set about organising a fundraising dinner at the Novotel London West (whose facilities were donated by general manager Michael Sloan).
The event, which took place one month after the fire, was organised by London United For Grenfell Tower, supported by the West London Hotel Managers Association and backed by the Kensington & Chelsea Chamber of Commerce and the W1 Hotels Association. Ticket sales for the dinner were boosted by the
proceeds of a silent live auction.
For the hoteliers behind the event, the initiative was a wonderful example of how people can unite to pull together a fantastic array of resources to help their neighbours. Speaking at the time, Bracken said: "My colleagues in London have, without question, jumped at the opportunity to help; they underpin the true values of the hospitality industry."
With 500 people in attendance at the event, including some of the firemen affected and a number of the families who lost everything, an astounding £104,000 was raised to aid those displaced by the fire.
Many of those involved in the event have said that it simply wouldn't have been possible at all without the enthusiasm and single-mindedness of Bracken. In the words of Rob Flinter, general manager of the Park Plaza Riverbank & Plaza on the River, Bracken would be surprised and embarrassed to have even been nominated for this award.
"A consummate hotelier and a general manager in London for over 15 years, Edward is passionate about the industry and has been of huge support to many people as they grew their own careers," says Flinter. "With just four weeks' notice, an incredible fundraising event was organised and exceptionally delivered. The amount raised and the impact it will have on the local community in west London is deserving of recognition. It was only down to his personal drive and effort over those four weeks that this was possible at all."
Sloan, who hosted the event, added: "When Edward first approached me to organise the event, I initially thought he was mad due to the short timeframe. He only had three weeks to arrange something that would normally take three months to plan. However, Edward's drive, determination and overwhelming compassion for the Grenfell residents were the major contributory factors in making it such a huge success.
"The energy that was required to bring it together cannot be overestimated and that is in conjunction with running his successful hotel. I can honestly say that the staggering amount of over £100,000 would simply not have been raised without Edward and, in fact, the entire event would not have happened without him."
Hilary Cross, chairman of the West London Hotel Managers Association, concludes: "Ed worked tirelessly day and night to put the event together. The food was amazing, service attentive and company united. Ed should be incredibly proud that he raised so much and united the industry. It was a special evening and one that will always be remembered."
The Caterer considers Edward Bracken a most deserving winner of the Extra Mile Award, highlighting the true meaning of hospitality at its very best.
2016 Crowne Plaza Leeds team
2015 Chris Penn, managing director, Ace Hotel London Shoreditch
2014 Sylla ‘Amara' Ibrahima Park Plaza, County Hall, London
2013 David Mead-Male, Royal Crescent hotel
2012 The Langstone Hotel and South Downs College
2011 Veronica Kingham, Village hotel, Maidstone
2010 Fiona Simm, Crowne Plaza Cambridge
2009 Gary Gateley, Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury
2008 Gloucester East (Barnwood) Premier Inn
2007 Paula Middleton, Premier Inn