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News > Events > The annual dinner was a Grand affair

The annual dinner was a Grand affair

The Grand Hotel in Eastbourne was the venue for the 2023 ES annual dinner
27 Apr 2023
Emma Garrett, Julie Mayhew-Archer, Paul Mayhew-Archer, Tom Lawson and Jess Lawson
Emma Garrett, Julie Mayhew-Archer, Paul Mayhew-Archer, Tom Lawson and Jess Lawson

We were delighted to return to the Grand Hotel for our annual dinner, which first hosted the Old Eastbournian Association dinner in 1905.

And what an evening it was! The atmosphere was buzzing as Old Eastbournians, members of staff, parents of current pupils, friends and others in the College community came together to celebrate all that is great about the school and its people.

We were very pleased to have Paul Mayhew-Archer (Reeves 1967-71) as our special guest speaker, and he brought the house down with his witty reminiscences of College life, together with the humour that he has found since his diagnosis with Parkinson's in 2011. He paid particular tribute to his English teacher Philip Le Brocq, who first encouraged him to put on at the College a comic play that he had written. Hearing the audience laughter at the time inspired Paul to go on to have a career as a comedy writer, producer and, more recently, as a stand-up touring his one-man show. You can hear Paul in a new podcast, Movers and Shakers, and learn more about how you can support fundraising at the Parkinson's UK website.

We are also grateful to our other speakers: Headmaster Tom Lawson, Eastbournian Society Chairman Hugh Price and Foundation Director Emma Garrett. But we are particularly grateful to all the guests who came along and ensured that it was such a successful evening, adding to the joyous atmosphere.

Among the many comments we have received: 'It truly was a brilliant and special evening...', 'Immense pleasure in attending last night's dinner; the meal was outstanding...', 'That was a terrific evening at the Grand Hotel. It is quite special to be able to gather back In Eastbourne...', 'It really was most enjoyable with excellent speeches, wine flowing and good food, plus of course a great setting. The Grand is always so impressive and it sets the tone for the evening.'

Photographs free to download

Our thanks go also to Alex Vanotti (Watt 1994-96) who took on the role of photographer for the evening and did a fantastic job. We have put a selection in the photo gallery below; under the first 12 pictures there is a link to 'Show more' for further photos.

And there are plenty more (nearly 300!) on Alex's website The access code is EASTBOURNIAN. All the photos are free to download; you can choose the ones you want or you can download all of them in one go if you go to ‘package deals’. And if you want to hire Alex to take photos for you, she tells us: 'although I’m London based, I’m happy to travel, and will offer a 15% discount on any type of photoshoot to Eastbournian Society members'. You can see more of her photography at

We asked Alex to share her thoughts on the College and what coming back to Eastbourne meant for her. She wrote:

I have two overriding memories of my first day at the College. My Moira House friends and I were standing in the hallway of Watt House, waiting for the handful of Lower Sixth boys who were to be our guides for the first couple of weeks until we became acclimatised. The names of our guides were very familiar – I’d been at St Andrew’s with them all. But I did a double take when they walked through the door at least two feet taller than when we’d last seen them.

Then the church service – oh my goodness. Jerusalem reduced me and my girlfriends to absolute fits. I’m sure those in the rows behind us were a bit puzzled as to why our shoulders were shaking, but the truth is, the unbelievable BOOM of hundreds of male voices during the hymns nearly shook the floor of All Saints', and couldn’t have been more different from the sweet gentle female chorus we were used to.

I was so overwhelmed and enamoured by the College in my first term that I frequently suffered bad dreams, in which I was told it had all been a big mistake and I was being sent back to my old school. Headmaster Tom Lawson said on Friday night that Eastbourne College was special, and I thoroughly agree.

I was envious of the third year girls who started in my Upper Sixth – they got a full five years at the College as opposed to our two. But those two years were so very formative and impressionable. I loved almost everything about the school – the warmth, encouragement, the Cloisters, the banter of our teachers, hockey (please tell me I’m not the only one who still gets Dusty Miller anxiety dreams about turning up to a match without their stick?), CCF, the pair of tartan trousers Charlie Bostock wore in solidarity with the aforementioned third year girls, all the little traditions, Big School theatre, Circus, the six-inch rule!

I always joke that Eastbourne is like an episode of Cheers – ‘where everybody knows your name’. Families and friends intertwined over generations like a forest of hardy climbers. If you meet someone for the first time at an OE event, it’s not long before you can find a mutual acquaintance – maybe their sibling, their parents, their aunt, uncle, cousin or even their children. It’s taken me a very long time to feel even half at home in London as I do when I ‘come home’. And when I do come home I am hit with an overwhelming feeling of happy nostalgia.

I live in South West London now, in the borough of Wandsworth, and count many OEs and OAs among my closest friends. The ES dinner was the perfect opportunity not only to have a great evening with those friends, but also to catch up with those we’d fallen out of touch with and to make new acquaintances. It was a buzzing joyful evening from start to finish and I was delighted to take photographs for the Eastbournian Society – it’s the glue that binds us all together.

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