The Last Supper was an all-male affair but, two thousand years later, things are changing.

Groups of friends – businesswomen and other professionals – have appropriated the format, with a dozen or more regularly coming together to network and raise money for charity.

The First Supper Club held its first party in February.

Originator Barbara Mack, a video producer from Kingston, said: “Most of my female friends have a busy time juggling family life with interesting careers, so finding time to meet friends is always a challenge, which is why we came up with this community supper party idea.”

The desire to donate to charity came from a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, during which Mrs Mack and husband Chris made a promotional film for orphanage charity St Joseph and the Helpers.

Mrs Mack said: “At the end of the day, they’re not really giving money to the charity, they’re just paying for their supper.

“It’s a lot of fun and does a lot of good.

“I’ve got three cooks and now we’ve committed to three supper parties.

“We’re all separate groups of friends – the idea is that we help each other.”

The parties take a cue from TV series Come Dine With Me – minus the manufactured stress and conflict.

One guest a night is asked to give a presentation on a business or service they run, as an opportunity to network and fill out their contacts book.

Gardener Olivia Coley, from Kingston, is to host the next supper club event, bringing an impressive history of charity event organising to the table, including work for Macmillian.

She said: “I just do it all the time. It’s a small event, this, by comparison.

“I’m going to do Thai food. The money raised from that goes to a homeless charity in Richmond, the Vineyard Community Centre.”

Pat Henry, UK chairman of St Joseph and the Helpers, said: “It’s absolutely wonderful to have somebody coming up with a fundraising idea.

“It just sounds such a different thing to do.

“It’s not your normal coffee morning.

“Hopefully it will benefit many charities.”