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A leap of faith for the Guild Trust

When our Guild Freemen quite literally plummeted to earth in the name of the Guild of Entrepreneurs Trust.

On Thursday 11th July 2019, a team of 13 intrepid Freemen Entrepreneurs and supporters from the Guild of Entrepreneurs Trust travelled to Old Sarum Park airfield, near Salisbury.

Why? Each member of the team was destined on that day to take part in a tandem skydive from 13,000 feet, strapped to a paratrooper from the British Army’s Red Devils display team.

( c) Duncan Simms and Stephen Wheatley

A briefing, in reassuringly bombastic tones and with an accompanying upbeat video managed to quell some of the understandable nerves. The Red Devils were cheerful and infectiously relaxed about the day. Following a spot of preparatory Pilates (with some, in particular, suspiciously perfect in their “worm saluting the sun” freefalling pose), the team took to heart the advice not to let themselves get too hungry and tucked into the magnificent breakfast selection provided by Court Assistants Fiona and Ian Taylor. Thank you both!

(C) Stephen Wheatley

Being informed that the plane would be late arriving and some tricky low lying clouds were preventing the first group of skydivers from falling, did nothing to quell the growing nerves. As it was, the first group didn’t actually jump until well after midday.

With the cloud clearing a little, the turnarounds became quicker and slicker and the changeover deftly handled by the instructors. Having been kitted out in her Red Devils scarlet jumpsuit, and wearing it with considerable aplomb for a couple of hours on the ground, the first of the Entrepreneurs team to go up was Alison Chivers (of Guild’s sponsors Trowers & Hamlins LLP). The remainder of the team could only watch and hold their collective breath as they scanned the skies above for the parachutes. Returning to terra firma, with great relief, Alison reported positively on the experience – with a halfway believable smile!

An hour or two later, it was the turn of Master Entrepreneur, Peter Hewitt, and his wife, Fidelma. With the best wishes of the rest of the team ringing in their ears they were led to their aircraft. Fingers were well and truly crossed by all the spectators, which included the Master of the Drapers’ Company, Prof Philip Ogden, and the Drapers’ Clerk, Col Richard Winstanley OBE, who had very kindly come to lend their support.

An agonising wait ensued as eyes were shaded against the bright afternoon sunshine, and necks were craned, as the other members of the team looked for the first glimpse of the skydivers. After what seemed like hours, the first parachute popped open and billowed out in the clouds above. More and more parachutes filled the sky as the tandems descended to the drop zone.

Rapturous applause rang out as the Master and his Consort, together with Past Master Kate Jolly were returned to the hanger. The beaming smiles of skydivers, elated at the experience and rapt by the unique views of Salisbury cathedral, Stonehenge, and, in the distance, the Isle of Wight. The smiles broadened even further as the Master Draper stepped forward to congratulate the team, and to present a cheque to the Guild of Entrepreneurs Trust on behalf of the Drapers’ Company.

Further trips accounted for the remaining members of the Entrepreneurs team, with each safely returned to the airfield accompanied by the applause and congratulations of their teammates and well-wishers.

Honourable mention must however go to one particular Freeman Chandan Rajah, who was unlucky enough to suffer a one-in-a-thousand parachute failure. Kindly, the Red Devils elected not to charge him for the extra 1,000 feet of freefalling he got to experience before the emergency parachute was explosively deployed. Jokes aside it was a hair-raising experience for Chandan as well as the onlookers and a salutary reminder of the small but highly significant risk involved in this experience.

Large slices of cake, essential the team were told to replenish the calories consumed through sheer nervous energy were handed round and gratefully consumed! Just after 6.15pm the last group had completed their skydive and the team, with a final round of photographs and adulation, dispersed with a truly unforgettable experience under their belts.

The day itself raised almost £20,000 for the Guild of Entrepreneurs Trust, and the Drapers’ Company’s added a further £10,000 to that total. With a target of £150,000 this year, these and all other donations help us support business skills and entrepreneurship in the UK, fostering the next generation of business leaders, innovators and employers. We thank every single one of them, those that supported on the day and our friends at the Draper’s for their generous support. For those not already donated, it’s not too late to support our magnificent 13. You can click here to donate https://www.justgiving.com/3e765bcc53

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