THE Henley Living Advent Calendar has won an award from the Prime Minister.
David Cameron chose the fund-raising initiative, which started two years ago, to receive his Big Society Award for its contribution to the community.
It comes as record numbers of people are attending this year’s event, with performances this week including one by pupils from Badgemore Primary School singing traditional Swedish folk songs to celebrate Saint Lucia’s Day.
Julie Perigo, who came up with the idea of the calendar after watching a similar event in Stockholm, said: “It is marvellous news. I know there will be something sent out to us and a small group of us will be going to No 10 sometime in the New Year.
“We were nominated way back in April — I don’t know who by — but we hadn’t heard anything until this week. It is always great to have an award as it makes you realise that even people outside Henley appreciate what you are doing and the fact that other towns have taken on the concept is also important.”
The calendar features a 15-minute performance at a different venue each night between December 1 and 24. Each evening is sponsored by a local business, with many handing out refreshments.
The performances are free to view but there are collections in aid of the Henley Youth Centre, the Regatta for the Disabled, Fourbirdsaboating and the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal. Ms Perigo said: “It is not just about 24 evenings or people raising money, it is joining up a lot more than that.”
Businesses have reported increased footfall and there have been more work experience opportunities in areas such as markering, graphic design and social media.
The idea has been taken up by other towns, including Wokingham, Twyford and Windsor. Ms Perigo added: “We always believed that it could easily be replicated in other market towns and boroughs which could do with a civic community and town centre boost.”
Mr Cameron said: “Henley’s Living Advent Calendar is a brilliantly unique embodiment of Christmas community spirit. Organisations opening their doors this year are giving a platform to talented local performers, providing a welcome boost for Henley businesses and putting on a great show for everyone in the town.”