Let IT Go

2010 Beacon Awards Ceremony, Goldsmith’s Hall, London

Speech at the 2010 Beacon Awards Ceremony at the Goldsmiths' Hall.

Dame Stephanie Shirley

The British Government's Founding Ambassador for Philanthropy

As one of the first Beacon Fellows, I'd like to honour the founders of this unique Award, some of whom are with us here in Goldsmiths' Hall. How appropriate a setting this is. Gold with its hallmarks; Beacon with its Awards.

So let us salute all the Beacons of Today...

And all those Beacons of Yesterday... where would we be without them?

That we have these ancient models of deliberate vision and generosity

are vital reflections of our giving past that we can't ignore.

Our ancestors who like Dick Whittington in London City, Dr Barnardo, Cadbury and Fry

broke new ground and sometimes 'laws' of the time

to found movements, build dreams, right wrongs, conquer disease...

People like Octavia Hill, Gilbert Sheldon, Andrew Carnegie, Haig

All Beacons, every one of them.

I ask, where would we be today?

as a country, without them, a Big Society banded together by those driven souls

who would not be stopped, could not be stopped...

to change and challenge our ideas, our ways of being, fixing our sights

on beauty, on bravery, and creativity

that would not, could not be stopped,

regardless of the punishments

or payments of their blood, sweat and tears?

Where, indeed?

Beacons let us see. Do they not? Without pointing.

All of a sudden that which was not there. Is there.

A school. A hospital. A garden that wasn't, somehow is.

And in that dazzling light, we, simply see.

And such impressions go deep into our core, our national psyche.

As though it had been there forever,

beaming there to show us the way.

Beacons. Have great capacity to reorder anything, everything

without asking Should I? Could I? But yes, I can.

I can.

It only takes one Beacon to make a light that we can follow to


I honour those great Beacons, more names than I can call out,

Who long ago have settled into the earth

with their passions duly exerted with a mark...

"I was here. I was here."

They are Beacon forerunners. Our brothers and sisters of Britain

who made life better for their citizen friends of the time,

and all of us for all time.

Philanthropy and Giving didn't start today, last week or even last century.

People have been solving problems

and raising the bar on our capacity to be generous

since we walked upright

making a world for us to dream of, build on.

And what of tomorrow? The perfect vision of 2020?

Who will say to us all

what we can not ignore.

Who will be those Beacons

to light the way?

Copyright November 2010

Dame Stephanie Shirley

Tel: + 44 (0) 1491 579004
Fax: + 44 (0) 1491 574995
Email: steve@steveshirley.com
Website: www.steveshirley.com

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The word 'inspiring' is greatly overused, but Stephanie Shirley's story is one of those rare cases in which it truly applies. This book is an extraordinary tale of creativity and resilience, and of the power of well-targeted philanthropy to transform the world.
Oliver Burkeman, Guardian journalist and author

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I feel lucky to count myself one of Steve’s friends, and I am so happy that, by sharing her story with us in the pages of this book, she will inevitably acquire many more admirers and fans. We may never be able to achieve a fraction of her success and influence, but the example of her generosity and unflagging attempts to use her hard won fortune to do good will inspire all of us to do just that bit more to leave the world a slightly better place than we found it.
Jane Asher


A wonderful, inspirational, living, breathing life of a book.
Stuart Ongley, SGO Music


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