FORMER Arsenal star Paul Merson was the star guest at the must-attend charity fundraiser of the year.

Nearly 500 poeple packed into The Grand hotel, Brighton, for the Rockinghorse children’s annual Best of British lunch.

Rugby star Gareth Chilcott also made an appearance at the prestigious charity event.

Thousands of pounds were raised for auction with items including a Brazilian football shirt signed by Pele, dinner at the chef’s table at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze Grill and four nights at a luxury Spanish gold resort.

Caraline from Midnight Communications a sponsor of the lunch, said: “The Best of British is a fantastic opportunity to have fun with best of the Brighton community.”

Ryan Heal, chief executive of Rockinghorse, said: “It’s quite amazing to see 475 of you turn up for such an amazing cause, even though I am biased.”

He said last year’s funds went towards a portable ultrasound machine worth £36,000.

A consultant from the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital, Brighton, said it had already had a “massive impact”.

Guests heard the appeal was launched after premature baby Sabrina fell ill in Brighton and was faced with the prospect of not being able to access treatment because the only available machine was needed by another baby.

Mr Heal added: “I for one am not going to stop until we have best children’s hospital in the country.”

See more pictures in Tuesday’s Business Matters.