A SKULL sculpted by the artist Damien Hirst was among an array of modern art being auctioned last night at the Groucho Club to help a primary school hit by the national funding crisis.
Well-connected parents at Soho Parish primary in London persuaded more than a dozen British artists and other celebrities to donate prizes for the fundraising event.
The Church of England primary, nestled in Soho's red-light district, faces a budget shortfall of more than pound;50,000. Its seven teaching staff take classes of up to 21 pupils. The rooms are not big enough for more children.
This restriction means teachers cannot be sacked, said head Rachel Earnshaw. "We are fighting for the basic survival of the school."
What Mrs Earnshaw had not expected was the impressive contacts of the school's parent-teacher association. The primary's 115 pupils come from a broad range of backgrounds and more than half receive free school meals and speak English as a second language.
However, among its PTA's members are proprietors of some of central London's trendiest bars and eateries, including Margot Henderson and her husband Fergus, who run the St John restaurant in Smithfield.
Friends at other restaurants and clubs gave support, as well as celebrity patrons such as Alex James of the band Blur, who gave concert tickets, and actor Stephen Fry, who will take four visitors to hear him record JK Rowling's new book, Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix.
Local gallery owner Sadie Coles helped persuade young British artists to donate works, including Hirst, Tracy Emin, who has made an embroidery, and Sarah Lucas, who has produced a suggestive sculpture involving cigarettes.
Mrs Henderson said: "The artists feel part of Soho because they go out here a lot and they want to give something back.
"Soho Parish is fantastic because its class sizes are so small. It's like a country school, only surrounded by brothels."