This year of all years I expected The Christmas Dinners for Care Leavers, which I set up in 2013, would be cancelled. There was no way steering groups would meet through winter, week in week out, to source presents and food for care leavers on Christmas Day. No way. Not with the way things are at the moment. How wrong I was.
Against all the odds each Christmas dinner steering group has been meeting (via zoom) every couple of weeks, up and down the country, since October. There are more Christmas Dinners happening this year than ever before! That’s more presents, more food and more love to more care leavers on Christmas day! . There are nineteen Christmas Dinners.
The steering groups are determined to deliver presents and food to care leavers between the ages of 18 and 25 years old. Some of the young people are living in Bed and Breakfasts. Many are living alone. This could be the hardest year for them but the steering groups have come through. Let me make this clear, the young people would survive without us. They are some of the most determined young people in our society. But this is about love… not survival.
I don’t know where to start with the inspirational stories bursting from each Christmas Dinner. This morning Naomi from Hackney said “it’s emotional Lemn. I received all the names of the Hackney Christmas Dinner today”. Naomi is a designer and swimming instructor from Hackney and she is packing the presents with the care and attention deserving of the care leavers of Hackney.
And quilt makers across the country are delivering bespoke beautiful quilts for each care leaver.
They retail at £120 (at least) and are made by Quits for Care Leavers. They have have created 1000 quilts across the country.
— BrumXmasDinner (@BrumXmasDinner) December 21, 2020
The quilts are delivered to Christmas Dinner steering groups who will take them to the care leavers with presents and food on Christmas Day.
Each and every quilt has a Xmas message that conveys the reminder that each and every young person and their Children are LOVED. Just Wow ! pic.twitter.com/jMhrKcozRe
— BrumXmasDinner (@BrumXmasDinner) December 21, 2020
Everything is COVID Safe. All the checks and balances have been done. I can hear you asking “How?”. We have lawyers and medical people checking everything and making sure that all deliveries are COVID safe. There are trained teams of volunteers up and down the country getting ready to drive to the young people on the day. We are ready!
Actor and podcast giant Craig Parkinson has made a video and drawn stars together, like Coronation St actors and Hollyoaks actors and Samantha Morton. They are wishing Merry Christmas exclusively to the young people. There are many more in the surprise video.
Thankyou to our patron Sally Lindsay. Her support and spirit is ever present in the christmas dinners. Sally has raised at least thirty thousand pounds for The Gold From The Stone Foundation which is the charity for The Christmas Dinners.
Alex Wheatle who is the inspiration behind the eponymous film by Sir Steve McQueen in The Small Axe Series on BBC this month, has donated his books to The Richmond Christmas Dinner.
Thank you to Linda Lines. I started this in 2013. I created a model which specifically encouraged community action after being inspired by Tope Project christmas dinner in 2012. If you want to start a Christmas Dinner next year remember, a steering group starts with one person talking to another. If each person does the same ‘hey presto’ you have a group of committed individuals.
I wrote the first How To Guide. And with the help of others it has grown and changed. It is a guide. It is not the law. This one is out of date but you can see how we do what we do. Our community can care for care leaver on Christmas Day. Thanks to Mary McGuigan and Simon Rudin for keeping their eyes on national picture of The Christmas Dinners.
Proud to organise meeting tonight of steering group for Salford Xmas Dinner @DinnerXmas registered with @GoldFSF to make Xmas special for Salford’s Care experienced young people pic.twitter.com/lzexQmduzR
— Worsley Rotary (@RotaryWorsley) November 4, 2020
I have had fifty three Christmases in all. I am not going to lie, Christmas is not easy. I still haven’t figured it out but even as I write I feel the darkness dissolve into light on winter solstice. The Christmas Dinners makes it all worth while. the Christmas Dinner teams across the country.
Moss Side is the place that accepted me when I first came to manchester as a care leaver at eighteen years of age.@msmpowerhouse. The idea of The Christmas Dinners has spread and communities have started to do their own thing because they are aware of care leavers at Christmas. This tweet was put up while writing this blog. It’s at the powerhouse in Moss Side and this makes me extremely happy. Merry Christmas everyone.
Wow!! 50 hampers for care Leavers. A massive thank you to @AnnIgbon @SharksAdvantage and Imtech for supporting this worthy cause at Xmas. The elf is out delivering @harveynebil pic.twitter.com/Grz00Jkfx5
— Moss Side Millennium Powerhouse (@msmpowerhouse) December 21, 2020
An editor would end thIs article here. The next bit s about what I have been up to this past week and unrelated to the this article. SO I have chosen to call the next section
IN OTHER NEWS
– In other news this is the Hallé Orchestra
Christmas Concert – huge thank you to @Brother_UK @SiemensUKNews @BridgewaterHall @hallestpeters @ManCityCouncil @PhilJones40 @lowfourstudio @DCMSArts @lemnsissay @Guy_Garvey @stevebell62 @redmond_tom @Timothy_Redmond @hallechoir @HalleYouthChoir Hallé Children's Choir and more pic.twitter.com/3ZMfmRE61f
— Hallé Orchestra (@the_halle) December 21, 2020
It’s the Hallé Christmas Concert from The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester led by Sir Mark Elder with Guy Garvey and myself in there too.
- In other news The January Challenge has only two weeks to go. Join in!
In other news this week Stanley Chow did a Lemn Sissay for “Great Northerners” in The Great Northern Warehouse in the heart of Manchester.
Because I remember how it felt when I walked alone around that same exhibition a year ago.
⚡️NEW ARTIST⚡️ We are very happy and honoured to welcome legendary Stanley Chow to our gallery. Discovered by The White Stripes, he has done work for the Metrolink , The New Yorker and many more. His current exhibition of 10 Great Northerners at the Great Northern Warehouse. pic.twitter.com/eNXhNaZQyW
— Egoïste Gallery (@EgoisteGallery) March 30, 2018
- In other news this week Winter Walks was broadcast on BBC One North West. It will soon broadcast to the nation on BBC Four.
Winter Walks starts on 4th January at 7pm, weekdays on @bbcfour. Calming and thoughtful, the perfect winter warmer – join @RevRichardColes @lemnsissay @SayeedaWarsi
#SelinaScott and #SimonArmitage pic.twitter.com/H9s3nQtXA7
— Atypical (@chatatypical) December 21, 2020
- In other news I’m proud to be the voice-over for Marcus Rashford’s well deserved special award on Sports Personality of the Year. @MarcusRashford
Footballer, England international, MBE, superstar.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) December 20, 2020
And finally in other news this week the kerfuffle over a card made by forest fr1ends at Whale and Bird and sold on the shelves of Paperchase has been resolved. The debacle was written about in The Guardian. Manchester Evening News, The Daily Mail, The Sun Ladbible and The Metro, Paperchase removed the card and Forest Fr1ends at Whale and Bird have removed it too.
I think of The Christmas Dinners as an arts project, arts activism. It shows what the arts can do when it engages with essential services.