More Christmas Dinners for care leavers than EVER before!! And other news!

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.

The quilts are delivered to Christmas Dinner steering groups who will take them to the care leavers with presents and food on Christmas Day.

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.

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.

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  this is the Hallé Orchestra

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.

Lemn Sissay by Stanley Chow

Because I remember how it felt when I walked alone around that same exhibition a year ago

  • In other news this week Winter Walks was broadcast on BBC One North West.  It will soon broadcast to the nation on BBC Four.

  • 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

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.

8 thoughts on “More Christmas Dinners for care leavers than EVER before!! And other news!

  1. Thank you Lemn !! Quilts For Care Leavers is a seed fallen from The Gold From The Stone and the dinners. This is our 3rd year, and we grow. This year many of.our quilters made scrubs and bags and masks, but we still had more than enough hugs for the dinner groups and even more cep. Your support is just wonderful !! Have a happy Christmas ♥️

  2. Although I am not part of the Christmas Dinners this year, I have been inspired by my time there to volunteer as an independent visitor for a young person in care. There are also opportunities to mentor a young person in or leaving care. Every child in or leaving care has the right to have an independent visitor. Some of your followers may be interested and that is why I mention it here. Thanks Lemn for your tireless efforts in support of care leavers. It is truly contageous.

  3. So inspiring to hear how everyone else has pulled through with their Christmas dinners too! We at South Gloucestershire will be heading into our 4th year of Christmas dinners for care leavers. Different this year with a morning visit from a volunteer, delivered lunch and online event! Hoping to come back with the live event next year!

  4. Thanks for a mention Lemn, it’s been a delight being part of your Christmas Dinners initiative. So glad that it’s spreading to more and more towns countrywide My book proceeds each year have become a tradition … I intend to keep up! You are an inspiration- without your beautiful poetry…I would not have written Men In My Kitchen!
    Linda x

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