EXCLUSIVE PICS: The inside story of Saturday’s star-studded £2 BILLION fundraiser – and Stephen Hawking as you’ve never seen him before

Security was tight.


This Saturday, the university launched a spectacular campaign with events in Senate House, King’s Chapel and Trinity. The Tab can exclusively reveal what happened behind the army of tight-lipped proctors and porters.

The dull part began in the morning with a series of events across the university – don’t be put off by the fact that the names resemble the titles of papers you might take at a D-Grade university:

  • “A Century of Conflict” in the Churchill Archives
  • “Cultivating the Future” at the Sainsbury Laboratory
  • “From Molecules to Mind” at the Biomedical Campus
  • “The Power of Words” at the UL

After “The Conversation”, a discussion at the New Museum Site, guests went to Senate House, where they met their specially selected student hosts at 17.30 for the fun part of the evening.

Student host and professional socialite Nnenda Chinda getting chummy with the Vice Chancellor.

Guests were announced by the Esquire Bedells – ancient officers of the University – while they took advantage of “substantial canapés” and drinks.

Vice Chancellor Boris spotted watching the rugby on his iPad. The marquee was on a “foamy blue carpet”.

The 144 student hosts – who were drilled on how to treat guests and what kind of answers to give – charmed their potential donors in the swanky surrounds of Senate House. After a speech by the Vice Chancellor, they lined up and waved about paddles with symbols – like a double helix, or a hippo representing Wittgenstein – in a weird sort of Mexican wave, while taking two steps forward. “I wish I kept mine,” said one student host. “Was so bizarre.”

Proctors keeping out the riff-raff.

Student host Ania Gruszczynska told us more about the event.  Over more than four hours of training, students were encouraged to act out possible conversations, and given a bio on their guests.

“We complained a lot, but our guests were really impressed. Some of them were even asking how much preparation it took.”

Her guest was Ann Cotton, an entrepreneur, philanthropist and international speaker.

Probably symbolises the world on fire. Read into that what you will.

“I only know that vice-chancellor was referring to these people in his speech as ‘donors’, so I assume they’ve already had to donate something,” she said, lending credence to rumours that invited guests had already donated six-figure sums to the campaign.

“The guests were nice and friendly when talking to students,” she said. But they turned a “little bit more posh when talking to each other… and there was this pressure that these people are about to give a huge donation to the university so we should be careful not to screw up.

Psychedelic blue.

“My guest told me that if I ever plan a trip to Ghana – we talked a bit about my internship that involved research about Ghana – I should let her know, because she has an office there and knows people around.”

Another student host described the guests as “lovely, generous and hilarious”.

At 19.00, guests were ushered by their students into King’s Chapel, where they were entertained by the King’s Chapel Choir and the Cambridge University Trumpet Ensemble.  The campaign was introduced with audio introductions by Sir Ian McKellen, Sir David Attenborough, Bill Gates Senior and Stephen Hawking – who made a surprise appearance. Other speakers included the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Chemistry and Lord Sainsbury.

A weirdly impressionistic photo and what looks like a top hat is what happens when you try to snap Stephen Hawking making his way across Great Court from a distance.

They laid on the cheese: guests were told how Cambridge, an “ecosystem of brilliance” helps undergrads find their “true purpose”.

Guests went into Trinity through the rarely opened Queens’ Gate.

At this point, guests were escorted by their student hosts along Trinity Lane – adorned with pots of fire and luminous paper bags, where the student hosts dropped them off at the Gala Dinner on Trinity’s backs.  The guide for student hosts warned them to keep “away from the fire pots”.

On the way through Nevile’s Court, they were “assailed by the Cambridge Impronauts, who dragged them to the side and aggressively performed short improvised sketches at them” – although they had to explain what “improved comedy actually was”. Guests would “laugh politely and then leave”, said impronaut Luke Heppenstall-West.

Student hosts were told to make sure their billionaire buddies didn’t walk into the fire.

There were 35 tables and around 400 guests in total. A four-course dinner was served at 20.30; the dessert was Trinity cream – a version of crème brûlée invented at the college in 1879.

The Gala Dinner took place in a massive, specially constructed marquee on the backs of Trinity, with giant, high-resolution video screens at either end.

Inside Trinity, guests walked past rowers on rowing machines which powered models representing Cambridge achievements – like a DNA helix and Newton’s apple.

More psychedelic blue.

The backs of Trinity, as well as Nevile’s Court, Great Court and the Northern Paddock were lit up with special lights for the occasion.

Just in case you weren’t sure what the catch phrase was.

The event finished at 23.00, at which point the filthy rich and famous were whisked away in taxis – after a display of fireworks, naturally.

Pyromania was definitely a theme.

On Sunday, guests were treated to brunch at the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Unfortunately, Prince William did not attend the event, as some had hoped. There were, however, apparently a Croatian prince and princess – possibly Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia, although his press office hasn’t got back to us.

Eager to see what our crusading friends at Whose University? thought of the event – which led to the cancellation of dinner at Trinity that night for the sake of the world’s neoliberal elite – we reached out to a representative, who told us: “Sorry, I don’t engage with the Tab.”

And now the cash rolls in.