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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 May 2006, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Queen toasts 'grey' contribution
The Queen
The Queen chatted with stars of stage and sport
"Grey power" has been celebrated at Buckingham Palace as celebrities of a certain age mingled with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Among the 500 older stars from show business, sport, media and academia were Bruce Forsyth, Sir Bobby Charlton and Professor Stephen Hawking.

The event was to recognise people, aged over 60, who make a significant contribution to national life.

The oldest guest was 94-year-old Mary Ashby, who volunteers at the Red Cross.

The Queen, who recently celebrated her 80th birthday, had a variety of conversations with her guests, including the millions spent on football players.

[People] should recognise that the older generation don't just sit about
Mary Ashby, 94

Former footballer Sir Bobby, 69, said: "She asked me about the World Cup and all this money players cost these days."

"I said, 'Unfortunately, ma'am, if you're in the football business you have to have footballers, and it's the market'."

Forsyth, 78, said the reception was "amazing", but he highlighted the difficulties of continuing in showbusiness when younger talent keeps on coming.

"It was recognised in showbusiness, especially in comedy, that you would come to about 60 and that a new young crowd would come in and the old ones would be shunted out," he said.

'I enjoy it all'

"It's good to see that you can still hold an audience and still do your job now."

Prof Hawking demonstrated the technology on his wheelchair and communication system to the duke, but did not discuss his scientific theories with the Queen.

"I think she has other things to think about," he said after the event.

Former House of Commons Speaker Baroness Boothroyd, 76, revealed: "I said to the Queen 'I don't know how you do it'. She said 'I enjoy it all'."

Ms Ashby, who also volunteers at Petworth Cottage Hospital, West Sussex and was once a personal secretary to Princess Alexandra, said she was bemused and honoured to be at the palace.

'Terribly young'

She plans to continue helping people for as long as she can.

"Once I become a nuisance to people by falling about I'll have to stop but I don't want to," she said.

She praised the continued activity of the Queen and the other guests. "I look around today and think everyone looks terribly young.

"I think [people] should recognise that the older generation don't just sit about."

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