Living Advent Calendar Smashes Fundraising Target and Raises £10K

The last four nights of the Living Advent Calendar saw the event go on a pub trail starting on 21 December at a new venue, the Catherine Wheel, followed by The Bull on Bell Street and The Anchor before the  traditional finale at St Mary’s Church.  The event this year smashed it’s fundraising target, raising over £10,000 for local charities.

LAC organiser Richard Rodway said, “Thank you to the multiple of people who have contributed to this year’s event. To our sponsors, contributors, our host venues, our performers (circa 350 of them), our refreshment partners, charities and of course to my festive wingman Hugh Legh on light and sound.  But most of all,  a massive thank you to the people of Henley who came out and joyously supported the event, spreading some festive cheer, and it is that coming together that makes the event so enjoyable and special.  We are truly humbled by the efforts people have made, and the sizes of the audiences every night, which we are delighted has translated into bumper donations to the good causes supported this year. Not just breaking the fundraising record set last year, but obliterating it and going through the £10,000 barrier for the first time.”

21 December – Young & Old Fill Catherine Wheel with Music

Young and old musicians came together from Henley Music School to perform  at night 21 of the LAC at the Catherine Wheel for the first time.  The pub which was packed with many people joining friends and family for a festive drink or meal were surprised with the added entertainment that night.  LAC Organiser, Richard Rodway quipped, “Welcome to all those unsuspecting members of the public who just thought they were in for a quiet drink and a meal in the Catherine Wheel this evening – no chance. We have caused absolute chaos this evening, so big thanks to Heather (Catherine Wheel Manager) for being so accommodating.”

The performance opened with Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day which was followed by young musicians Carys and Isla Jarvey performing solos on the oboe and bassoon. George Suckling aged just 9 then performed a double cello concerto with Mae Reineke.  Christmas carols Silent Night, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, Hark the Herald, Christ is Born gave the audience the chance to join in.  The winds and brass section also performed Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer.  Ava Reineke, who is studying Opera gave an incredible soprano performance.  The set ended with We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

The evening was raising money for the Henley Music School which provides music education for all ages, abilities or means.  Laura Reineke, Principal of the Henley Music School who resigned as a paid employee a few months ago to save the charity money said, “We are still operating although we are struggling hugely for funds. We provide music education free of charge to pupil premium children (that’s children on free school meals), to autism spectrum children, to refugees. We offer bursaries of up to 100%. It’s a vital part of their school life to have access to music education.”

22 December – Christmas Spirit lifted on a Festive Friday

The Bull on Bell Street hosted Day 22,  of  LAC, within their courtyard area, opening the advent window to “To Narnia,”  newcomers to this event.  The band who played to a packed audience, included Jimmy  Grant, guitarist and vocals, Harry Burgess, bass guitar, and Ellen Fazarkely on vocals.

Singing a variety of Christmas tunes that included Merry Christmas Everyone by Shakin’ Stevens, I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, Last Christmas by Wham, Merry Christmas Everybody by Slade Fairytale of New York by the Pogues and Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You, the audience joined in these familiar songs. 

The evening’s event was raising funds for the Wyfold Riding for the Disabled. Gill Rushworth from the charity, spoke passionately about the charity that provides riding facilities or carriage driving for over 65 people, with physical or mental disabilities.  Gill explained how the work is not only dependent upon its 90 volunteers but also is reliant on the fundraising and given the impact that bad weather has had on many of the charity’s fundraising events this year, everyone was encouraged to dig deep and buy some raffle prizes. 

The Bull on Bell Street last hosted the event back in 2017, when the current space was a car park which has now been transformed into a beautiful courtyard area, that really encapsulates the Christmas Party vibe. 

John General Manager of the Bull said, “Richard has done a fantastic job in pulling the Living Advent Calendar event together, and now this event that takes place over 24 days not only raises funds for various charities but also adds value to different pubs and venues in Henley and also makes a massive difference to the people around the area and in Henley who are exposed to such venues that wouldn’t have otherwise done so.”

The audience also included Pippa Hughes who helped to set up the Wyfold Group over 53 years ago.

Richard Rodway announced that the people of Henley were all record-breakers, as helped The Henley Living Calendar had by Day 21, surpassed their previous record in raising money for Charities. 

23 December – Fun and Laughter at The Anchor

The penultimate night of the LAC was hosted at the Anchor Pub on a cool windy night and sponsored by Vividly Simple. Whilst the audience was treated to mince pies and Baileys, Richard Rodway, the event organiser, introduced the evening’s surprise performers, The Yoko Mainwaring Experience. 

This five-piece ukulele band, headed by Martyn Cooper, added their own fun and comedy to the performance and continually encouraged the audience to sing along as they played several Christmas songs and Christmas Carols. These included, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Last Christmas, Jingle Bells, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Away in a Manger, Silent Night, Deck the Halls, Dominick the Donkey,  and “Frosty the Snowman. For the finale, the band played a medley of Christmas songs whilst the audience watched a film of band member, Mike Holland’s family, at Christmas in 1962, depicting a beautifully filmed memory of family and friends. 

A tribute was also made to the late Benjamin Zephaniah, a poet and musician who died in early December, by reading two poems. Particular reference was made to Benjamin’s thoughts on friendship and the poems “People Need People” and “Talking Turkeys” which provided an interesting view of Christmas from a turkey’s perspective.

Caroline Burgess from Ronald McDonald House, in Oxford, which was the night’s charity fundraiser, spoke of how the charity provides free accommodation and support to the families of sick children who are being treated in the John Radcliffe Hospital as well as families from across the wider area and how the 62 bedroom house is full and constantly helps relieve emotional stress to families.

24 December – Traditional Carols at St Mary’s Church

On a blustery Christmas Eve, the LAC ended as usual at St Mary’s Church with carols led by St Mary’s Church choir.

A large congregation packed the area outside the church to sing carols starting with Once in Royal David City.  The choir comprising of young and old voices sang with beautiful harmonies.  As With Gladness Men of Old, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Hark the Herald, It Came Upon a Midnight followed and the evening ended with a rousing Oh Come All Ye Faithful.

St Mary’s Church Rector, Father Jeremy Tayler read a poem Ring Out, Wild Bells by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

The evening was raising money for the Mayor’s charities, Henley Community Hub and Henley Branch of Parkinson’s UK.  Henley Mayor, Councillor Kellie Hinton said, “The charities are the ones chosen by the former Mayor, Sarah Miller who had to resign a few months ago why I took over but we’re keeping with her chosen charities.”

Father Christmas aka David Eggleton was giving out chocolates to the children who attended

Organiser Richard Rodway said, “Tonight was all about audience participation.  As a great elf once said, the greatest way to spread festive cheer is to sing aloud for all to hear. It’s a mixture of emotion because Santa is coming but means it is the last Living Advent Calendar.  We’ve had some fun.  It’s down to so many people.”  He went on to thank the sponsors and Santa’s little helpful elf, “Henley’s unlikely bromance, thanks to Hugh Legh for all the lighting and audio.”  He went on to thank the audience saying “It wouldn’t work without you it would have been a bit awkward.”




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