“HIV does not make people dangerous to know. You can shake their hands and give them hug heaven knows they need it” Diana Princess of Wales.
On August 31 2017 the country marked 20 years since the untimely death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The Princess has a special place in the heart and history of Mildmay and they wanted to mark this important anniversary in the best way possible.
A simple thanks giving service followed by a tea party was held in the garden of the hospital and to honour her legacy four ‘Diana Awards’ were presented to staff, celebrating and reflecting many of the qualities she championed and embodied.
Around 200 supporters and friends gathered together to share memories, pay their respects and celebrate her all too short life. It was also an opportunity to hold in thought and prayer her family, especially her sons HRH Prince William and HRH Prince Harry.
The Princess touched the hearts of many people and her impact on Mildmay was immeasurable She offered her support in such a powerful way at a time when it was so badly needed, shining a light on their work and on HIV at a time when the cloud of judgement and stigma darkened so many lives.
Today her legacy lives on through the causes she championed and through her sons who have used their own influence to bring change.
Canon Roger Royle hosted the event and Wayne Sleep who so memorably danced with Diana, Princess of Wales in a private performance at the Royal Ballet in 1985 joined the gathering.
“The audience gasped when Diana appeared, as if they’d all taken one enormous breath.”
Moving tributes were also given by the past chair of Mildmay, Helen Taylor-Thompson OBE, and photographer Chris Wood, who joined the Princess when she visited patients at Mildmay.
Soprano Sally Harrison, performed Fauré’s – Pie Jesu, providing an opportunity for quiet reflection as her voice soared bringing stillness and beauty .
The Mildmay Patient Choir sang “Goodbye English Rose” written by Elton John especially for Diana, Princess of Wales, which he performed for the first time at her funeral.
Actress Linda Robson (Birds Of A Feather, Loose Women) then presented the Diana Awards to members of staff
Ross White Chief Executive of Mildmay, said: “As well as looking back on an extraordinary life, today we also honour the strength and courage that the Princess inspired. Like so many, Mildmay still benefits from her legacy. She helped to give courage during tough times and hi-lighted and brought strength to our work. Most recently her son, Prince Harry came to open our new hospital breathing fresh life into the challenge to raise HIV awareness and combat stigma.
We believe the Princess would be proud to see our work today as we reach out to so many in great need, providing treatment, care and rehabilitation for people with complex and severe HIV associated health conditions, including brain impairment. Our work in the UK means that 85% of our UK patients return to independent living within the community on discharge from Mildmay. In East Africa we reach over 106,000 people living with and affected by HIV.”
Diana, Princess of Wales championed causes that represented some of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society, inspired change and broke down barriers and stigma. The compassion, love and joy she brought into the lives of so many will live on – this is surely the greatest tribute of all.
This event was covered by ITN London, Channel 5 and Sky News.