SING: So many made it all possible

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Three years ago, I had the crazy idea of planning and organising an entirely free community event in the heart of my hometown.

I had no idea how it would work, what would happen, or even if anyone would turn up.

Now, three years later and on our third Big Christmas Sing event, we’ve managed to gather nearly 500 people from all parts of our community to come together and spread some festive joy by singing along on a cold and dark Northumbrian night.

It has taken a huge amount of hard work and certainly hasn’t been a walk in the park, but seeing people enjoying themselves truly does make it all worthwhile.

To hear a member of the crowd say, “this event is now the highlight of our Christmas calendar”, made me feel very proud, to say the least.

This year, I decided it would be best to put the regular generous offers of donations to use and support a local cause, which also means a lot to many people in our town.

So thank you to everyone who was able to put money in the buckets for Communityat NE66, the fantastic charity which operates from Alnwick Community Centre, a building very close to my heart too.

I believe we have managed to raise just over £165 with buckets only in the Town Hall.

Hopefully, this will go a small way to supporting what is such a crucial, and often underfunded, service in our town.

I must say a huge thank you to everyone who made this event possible.

Thank you to my friend and tech genius Andy Hunt, from Alnwick Playhouse, who has given countless hours of commitment and dedication to making the event look so amazing.

Also thanks to the Alnwick Playhouse Concert Band, without which we wouldn’t have an event at all. Thank you for not thinking I was totally mad three years ago (or at least for not saying so at the time), and for filling our hearts with festive cheer and asking for nothing in return. It is a truly fantastic and talented group of people.

Thank you to all our local business sponsors who have grown with us year on year and to which I will be writing to thank personally for helping with everything from mince pies, hot chocolate, lights, printing song sheets and advertising.

This includes, but is not limited to, Richard Frater and the team at CBS World in Alnwick, Trotters the bakers, Sainsburys in Alnwick, The Alnwick Garden, Greggs, Davidson and Son Electrical, Alnwick Markets, Alnwick Town Council, Alnwick International Music Festival, the road closures and events team at Northumberland County Council, and the Freemen of Alnwick for use of the Town Hall.

All sponsoring businesses and organisations have been promoted and distributed in our song sheets.

Finally, thank you to my fantastic volunteers, our talented singers and performers Lindsay Manion and Sarah Purvis, our Christmas elves Ben Kinloch, Lisa-Marie Kelly and Jordan Shiel, my co-host David Paterson, James Westwell for playing Olaf the Snowman, and the hardworking tech team made up of Jack and Andrew.

Our guys doing catering in the Town Hall managed to keep everyone warm and well fed, with hot chocolates and mince pies for what seemed like 1,000 people, all free of charge thanks to our sponsors.

Thank you to everyone who came along and who put their faith in what started for me as an idea and has now become a regular, exciting feature of the festive season.

I would like to wish everyone in the Alnwick area, and the rest of our county, a very merry Christmas and best wishes for the new year.

James Matthewson,

Event creator and organiser, the Alnwick Big Christmas Sing