DRESSED as a cross between Countess Raine Spencer and Margaret Thatcher, artist Grayson Perry proved to be a delightful guest of honour.

The Essex artist joined 130 guests at the Firstsite Fundraising Gala Dinner, organised to raise money for the gallery's creative and educational programmes.

Fenwick goody bags filled with chocolates and beauty products were handed out with money off vouchers and gift cards which commemorate the vibrant Life of Julie Cope exhibition.

Firstsite supporters and fans of Grayson enjoyed a two-course meal and auction as well as a short speech by the creator.


Grayson in talks with the BBC's Stewart White

Mark Inglefield, a spokesperson for Firstsite, said: "Funnily enough during his speech he brought up an article about him in the Evening Standard about how he lost his cat Kevin and was utterly distraught.

"Then at the end of the evening he made an announcement that his cat had been found on the roof of his house where he lives in Islington, and was perfectly okay though his tail was a bit damaged.

"That made people giggle.

"Grayson also showed off his new look which consisted of a very short dress he designed himself, quite extraordinary 1970's-style glasses and skyscraper heels."


Grayson's pins were a conversation starter. Pictured with Sally Shaw

Proceeds from the event will go towards Firstsite's creative and educational programmes.

Two lucky guests secured seats after entering a public prize draw.


Picture: Marwan Sallouta/courtesy Firstsite

Close to 200 people filled Colchester Council's Moot Hall beforehand for a sold-out talk where the Chelmsford-born cross-dresser spoke about the inspiration behind the Life of Julie Cope, love of Essex and answered questions from the audience.

Mr Inglefield added: "The audience couldn't have responded more warmly to him and the fact he talked about Essex a lot really struck a chord with everyone."


Picture: Marwan Sallouta/courtesy Firstsite

Sally Shaw, Firstsite director, said: "Grayson Perry is a one off.

"A brilliant artist and writer, a challenging social commentator, maverick, snappy dresser, but above all that a lovely, humane and generous human being.

"It was a great pleasure to welcome him to Firstsite."