Cancer is still a highly emotive and raw subject in the home of Sir Rod Stewart and his wife Lady Stewart – better known as Loose Women's Penny Lancaster – and their sons Alastair and Aiden. It is less than three months since the legendary rocker, who turns 75 next month, announced publicly that he had beaten prostate cancer, having been diagnosed in February 2016 during a routine check-up.
Sir Rod had told guests at a fundraising evening with his former Faces bandmates Kenney Jones and Ronnie Wood: "No one knows this, but I thought this was about time I told everybody. I'm in the clear, now, simply because I caught it early."
Rod performed at the inaugural Memories that Matter fundraising gala
Last week the singer – who HELLO! can exclusively reveal will finally be clear of cancer drugs at Christmas – and Penny had a chance to give something back. And they did so in style, at the inaugural Memories that Matter fundraising gala, which they hosted at London's Rosewood hotel. They had meticulously planned the event, at which Sir Rod performed, and the "memorable night" raised an impressive £1.1m for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
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"We started working on this project 12 months ago," Penny told HELLO!. "From the simple things, like designing the table layouts, to the tablecloths and the little napkins, meeting with the florist, deciding on every fine detail, working with the sponsors, the drinks distiller and designing the Rod and Penny cocktails."
The couple spent 12 months working on the project
She told guests: "To represent our house in Florida, we had palm trees. To represent the house in Scotland, we had purple thistles. Wherever we go for dinner, Rod calls ahead to make sure they have white tablecloths, otherwise he doesn't attend. So there were white tablecloths. We have a special dessert called Rags to Riches, because as most people know Rod started as an ordinary lad and his favourite dessert was bread-and-butter pudding. But later in life when he became successful… actually when we got married our wedding cake was millefeuille."
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Sofia Blunt and Ellie Goulding showed their support
Penny added: "We wanted people to feel like they were coming to a dinner party of ours that we had personally created, rather than just Rod being the performing artist. Only in our dreams did we think we would reach over a million pounds. We've been to a lot of charity events, and even with double the amount of people it's hard to raise that kind of money."
Penny looked stunning in a black and gold dress from Boudi Fashion
The enthusiasm with which Penny, who looked stunning in a black and gold dress from Boudi Fashion, bounced around the room chatting to the 180 guests, including singer Ellie Goulding, former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard and former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, helped swell the coffers.
Among the lots was a dinner date with Penny and Sir Rod at the Ritz, Penny's favourite restaurant, which sold for £75,000. A similar dinner date was offered again – this time with Penny and Rod promising to dance with the successful bidders – which went for the incredible sum of £100,000. Other lots included ringside seats at next year's Tyson Fury v Deontay Wilder boxing match, a guitar owned and signed by pop star Ed Sheeran, and artwork by Ronnie Wood, which was bought by Kirkcudbrightshire-born David, who told HELLO!: "Great event for a wonderful cause. A million pounds raised with Scottish influences!"
Penny with Aggie Kasicka, who was diagnosed with cancer aged 20
Ahead of the auction, an emotional speech from 22-year-old Aggie Kasicka, who was diagnosed with cancer aged 20 and spoke about the "amazing" support offered by the Teenage Cancer Trust, brought the purpose of the evening into sharp focus. Two rip-roaring sets from Sir Rod and his band – including hits Maggie May and Sailing – later saw all the guests on their feet. At one point Penny joined her husband on stage and cheekily grabbed his bottom as he performed.
The couple had cocktails named after them
Talking to HELLO! after the event, Lady Stewart said: "Walking around the room in the evening, it seemed like everyone knew each other. There was a great atmosphere and a warmth. It felt more like a dinner party than a charity gala, which made it more personal for everyone involved to create a memory that wouldn't be forgotten, but also to raise incredible funds – and I think they saw how genuine Rod and my involvement was.
"The speech by Aggie was so beautiful and composed. She was so brave and I have absolute admiration for her. Cancer has also affected my sister-in-law, who was diagnosed with breast cancer nine years ago. She's going to be celebrating ten years of being clear next year. The Teenage Cancer Trust allows the young people to continue as normally as possibly and have fun during the sad times, which really strengthens the mind and helps them get through it."
The event was held at London's Rosewood hotel
Speaking about Rod, she said the prognosis is good. "Lucky he's been given the all-clear. He has had his last hormone injection, which suppresses testosterone – which is basically the food of prostate cancer. That's kind of a slow-releasing drug in the form of an implant and it lasts for about three months. So at pretty much Christmastime, his body will be free of all the drugs and hopefully he will just move on with good health.
"He's always in top health and fitness. Having been given that warning as well, it makes you even more on top of your game. Since hearing Rod's news, so many people have gone to be tested. Some people have said: 'I've got it, but thanks to you I've caught it early.' When he was diagnosed he took it on the chin, carried on working, carried on touring. He stayed really positive. A lot of the battle isn't physical but the mental attitude you have to fight something like this."
Penny with Memories that Matter founder and organiser Mark Aldridge
The gala is the brainchild of Memories that Matter founder and organiser Mark Aldridge, a Teenage Cancer Trust patron and friend of Penny's, who approached her with the idea a year ago. Mark is hoping to host the event annually, enlisting the support of different stars to organise it each year. "Memories that Matter is all about the importance and power of memories," he said. "This is a truly unique concept, where a global artist curates the entire experience."
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