Saturday, 31 July 2021

Calendar shows raise record sum for charities

THIS year’s Henley Living Advent Calendar has broken its own fund-raising record.

THIS year’s Henley Living Advent Calendar has broken its own fund-raising record.

About £4,500 has been donated in bucket collections and raffles since the start of the fifth annual event, which is sponsored by Higgs Group, publisher of the Henley  Standard.

This is a third up on last year’s total of £3,335 and better than the previous record of £4,054, set in 2013.

Richard Rodway, who chairs the calendar, said: “We raised £4,000 with four days still to go.

“The audiences have been great, both in terms of numbers and their generosity and their Christmas and community spirit. There has been a really great atmosphere every night.

“This year we have supported 20 charities and raised more money than before. It is exactly what I wanted to achieve.”

Among the latest performances was one by firefighters based at Henley first station who have appeared every year but one since the Living Advent Calendar began in 2010.

On Saturday night, they “rescued” Father Christmas when he got stuck on the roof of their base in West Street.

Firefighters Paul Herrington, Anna Van Leemputten, Ian Birch, Bryn Gedney and crew manager Alastair Letchford arrived in an engine with its blue lights flashing to help after Santa crashed his sleigh.

After erecting a ladder, Bryn Gedney scaled it to get to the roof of the West Street station.

He took the sackful of presents first before helping Father Christmas, played by firefighter Nick Shuttleworth, to safety.

Santa then gave advice on road safety to the crowd of more than 70 people before the crew had to extinguish a “fire” among the presents he had delivered.

Before the performance, Joe Flynn, Laura Cuddon and Lauren Chester, of the Rioga Academy, performed a series of Irish dances.

Afterwards children and parents could look around the fire station and meet mascot Drago the Dragon.

Crew manager Michael Saunders said: “It went really well and I think everybody enjoyed it. We managed to get a few fire safety messages in with our performance. We like to get involved with the community and try to educate people as well.”

The show was in aid of Camp Mohawk in Wargrave, a day centre providing holiday activities for children with special needs.

Audience participation was key at Sunday night’s performance at the d:two centre.

Children told “cracker jokes” and took part in word games and colouring activities. One of the joke-tellers was Mr Rodway’s eight-year-old son Eddie who said: “What do you get when a snowman meets a shark? Frostbite!”

Former town councillor David Silvester gave a reading of the traditional nativity story, supported by people playing Mary and Joseph, for an audience of about 150 people.

Sue Prior, leader of youth and community group Nomad, and Henley Baptist Church pastor Roger Cole compered the event and staged their own version of the Henley Standard’s “Take Five” feature, asking members of the audience what Christmas means to them.

As mince pies, cake, popcorn and drinks were served, the event ended with a flash mob sing-a-long of O Come All Ye Faithful.

On Monday night, the all-women Tapestry Choir performed at Henley Cricket Club, off Matson Drive, watched by more than 80 people in the rain.

The 15 singers performed songs Ariel’s Song from The Tempest and There Is No Rose by Benjamin Britten and invited the audience to join in The Holly and the Ivy.

The show was in aid of brain injury charity Headway Thames Valley. On Thursday last week, about 20 members of the audience joined in a foxtrot at the town hall at the invitation of Richard Miles, of the Miles Dancing School.

Students from the school performed to All I Want For Christmas and Mr Miles and his partner performed to Aurora’s version of Half The World Away. The finale was a tribute to James Bond with Diamonds Are Forever. Estate agents Knight Frank laid on mulled wine and mince pies and there was a collection and raffle in aid of Oxfordshire Mind.

On Friday night siblings Annabel and Toby Marlow performed from the first floor window of an office building.

Annabel, 16, sat on the windowsill overlooking the rear courtyard at Delegate Office and Conference Services in Hart Street and sang to the crowd. Her brother, 21, played the keyboard and sang too.

More than 80 people watched the pair perform a selection of festive and pop songs, including Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself, In The Bleak Midwinter, Love Is An Open Door from the children’s film Frozen, Fair Game by Sia and Baby It’s Cold  Outside. The pair then led the crowd in an impromptu sing-a-long, supported by the Henley Rock Choir, of Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You, Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now and Merry Christmas Everyone, originally by Shakin’ Stevens.

Annabel said: “I was incredibly nervous but it was really good and I loved it. We have lived in Henley our whole lives so of course we wanted to give something back to the town and it is for charity.”

The evening, which was held in partnership with Elizabeth Cleall Interiors, was in aid of the annual Henley Regatta for the Disabled.

On Wednesday last week, more than 100 people were entertained by the Henley Music School at the River and Rowing Museum.

Children played a selection of festive songs on wind, string and brass instruments.

The school’s drumming club performed Jingle Bells and the guitar club played Silent Night. For the finale, 15 youngsters played Wham!’s Last Christmas.

The Quince Tree caf´ in the museum and interior designer Niki Schafer provided mince pies and mulled wine. Donations were for the museum.

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