The Living Advent Calendar returned after a three years and smashed its former fundraising record by £1200 with a massive total of £8557 for local charities. In 2014 when Richard Rodway took over organising the LAC only two nights made over £200 (1 and 24 Dec). This year only 2 nights failed to deliver more than £200, and 9 nights made over £400.00.
Organiser Richard Rodway said, “Thank you to everyone who contributed to and supported this year’s event, to our sponsors, contributors, our host venues, our performers, our refreshment partners, charities, and to all of you who came night after night, donating so generously and warmly sharing your festive spirit. The event truly is the sum of a multitude of component parts and we have some very special people in Henley who make up those component parts.
“An extra special and massive thanks to my yuletide wingman Hugh, working tirelessly night after night to make the performances happen. We do it because we enjoy it & are proud to put on some great occasions and work with some great and talented people, but most of all we love bringing everyone together to share in something unashamedly and unequivocally joyous, now more than ever.
“It was just great to be able to put on the event after the last two years but, not only making more money for good causes than ever before, to absolutely obliterate our previous highest fundraising total is the proverbial icing on the cake.”
On Christmas Eve, Eve the Average Wife Band took to the Town Hall stage as the surprise performance opening their set with Ray Charles’ Mary Ann. Lead singer and guitarist Lucie Henwood said, “We’re incredibly honoured to be here tonight and so grateful to be asked.” They went on to play Mercy Mercy Mercy and Nobody Here but Us Chickens. The star song of their set was Baker Street with Caryn Moberly playing the sax solo part. She said afterwards, “I was so nervous as it was the first time I had performed it.” This night saw the biggest number of audience getting up to dance with the band finishing with (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and Winter Wonderland.
Afterwards Lucie said, “In this lovely little town, volunteers make things happen. The LAC team have worked incredibly hard. A great big thank to Richard and a special mention to Carolyn Molyneux who I’m sure is looking down on us.”
The evening was raising money for Camp Mohawk in Wargrave who support over 500 young people. Sam from the charity read out a poignant quote from one family who came to their firework night saying, “You’ve removed all the barriers and allowing all the family to come together.”
This night broke the record the highest night making £741 beating 24 Dec in 2019.
The LAC finished, as is tradition, on Christmas Eve outside St Mary’s Church with the choir singing carols accompanied by the large audience. Father Jeremy before reading a poem The Coming by RS Thomas said, “It’s been a tough couple of years, and it still is a little bit tougher in different, sort of way, that it was during Covid. And so, I think it makes Christmas even more important, more, more poignant, more meaningful.”
The carols started with a beautiful solo of Once in Royal and continued with Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, Hark the Herald, Away in a Manager, Oh Come All Ye Faithful.
The evening was raising money for the Mayor’s charities. Henley Mayor, Councillor Michelle Thomas said, “Thank you to Richard for coming out night after night with a smile on your face.”