Central Bylines invites you to our virtual Christmas carol service – a celebration of just a few of the wonderful people and organisations from around our region.
🎶 On the Feast of Stephen 🎶
Boxing Day in Matlock means just one thing – the annual raft race. Since 1961, the Derbyshire Association of Sub Aqua Clubs (DASAC) has organised the race which over the years, has raised more than £150,000 for the RNLI. It’s not all about fund-raising, though. In landlocked Derbyshire, winter diving events are hard to come by. The raft race provides fun and cheer in the short, dark days of December.
On Boxing Day morning, a motley collection of rafts with their equally motley crews enter the cold River Derwent at Matlock. They tumble down the river and over the weir to the finish line at Cromford meadows. Teams – and spectators – come from all over the country.
It didn’t happen last year, for obvious reasons. But this year’s race – paddles crossed – is on! You’ve just got time to get down there: off you go! And if you can’t attend, you can donate to the RNLI here.
🎶 Though the frost was cruel 🎶
At the beginning of the year, the City of Wolverhampton council asked the public to name its fleet of nine new gritting lorries.
As is always the way with these contests, the good people of the city immediately unleashed their latent streak of mischief and wit: 3500 votes were cast and the winning names include such gems as Noddy Colder, Professor Chris Gritty and Nuno More Ice (after the much-loved former manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Nuno Espírito Santo).
The ninth lorry has been named after Malcolm Lewis, who helped to maintain the city’s roads for 20 years, leading a maintenance team and working as a gritter driver. Malcolm died in 2020 and his colleagues wanted to name one of the new wagons after him as a tribute.
His son, Steve, said: “He didn’t like a fuss, but I do think my Dad would be really proud to think one of the new gritters was being named after him.”
🎶 Yet in thy dark streets shineth an everlasting light 🎶
Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity (DRS) is part of a grassroots movement working to provide aid and support to refugees. Since 2015, the organisation has been involved in several convoys to Calais and Dunkirk, delivering vital aid to refugees and volunteering in camps.
They work alongside other teams to send sorted, donated clothing and essential items to refugee camps in France and Greece and Syria.
This year, they have taken three vans to Calais, as well as their first van to Lebanon. At home, they fundraise in all sorts of ways. But, so much more than that, they support refugees in the local community with sports activities, language lessons, social events and lots and lots of cake!
🎶 Bless all the dear children in thy tender care 🎶
Northfield Community Partnership, in south west Birmingham, provides a vital range of services to thousands of people in the area, things like training & development, community connections for the over-50s, local events and emergency food and fuel assistance.
In October 2020, the charity joined forces with other Birmingham organisations such as Digbeth Dining Club, The Project and Northfield Baptist Church to ensure that children entitled to free school meals would continue to receive them throughout half term and the Christmas holiday. Northfield had 6,300 students eligible for free school meals at the time and the logistics around the deliveries became a military operation.
Marcus Rashford brought the issue of free school meals to the attention of the nation but without the swift intervention of charities like the Northfield Community Partnership the consequences for thousands of local children may have been severe.
As a result of their food distribution work, the partnership needed to spread its wings. In November 2020, the team relocated their foodbank to larger premises in Kings Norton where they continue to thrive.
More from Central Bylines
- My Little town – Bridgetown living advent calendar
- Hiking the Enchantment Lakes of North Central Washington State
- Stratford days
🎶 Of all the trees that are in the wood 🎶
Save Weekley Hall Wood is a community group formed to save the wood and a wildflower meadow from plans to build warehousing. The group is a collaboration between passionate individuals and concerned local organisations opposed to the destruction of the last remaining accessible natural area around Kettering.
The group organises events and protests, sells calendars and t-shirts, has an online magazine and has collected more than 19,000 signatures for its petition. They scored a notable success at a Kettering council meeting in August. After a heated debate (with many noisy contributions from the public), the council unanimously decided to defer a decision on the first of two planning proposals.
In the middle of December, hundreds of local people came together to show their love for the woods with a Winter Festival. They celebrated with lights and lanterns, singing, poetry, storytelling, artwork and sculpture.
🎶 Oh the weather outside is frightful 🎶
In Northamptonshire, a local hero is making sure that no-one has to choose between heating or eating.
Steve Parker has offered to fix the boilers of those aged 65 or over in his village of Irchester – for free.
“Obviously, it’s getting colder now and it’s the time of year when people’s boilers start to go wrong,” he said. “With the rising prices of gas, electric and everything else, there are elderly people who will generally need to choose between heat and food. If these people get an issue with their boiler, I’d hate for them to not get it sorted because of the cost.”
Although a plumber rather than a boiler mechanic by trade, he knows that many boiler problems can be fixed easily without having to replace parts. He’s also aware that ‘cowboys’ will overcharge for these simple things.
“So to anyone over the age of 65, I’d like you to save my number and should anything go wrong with your heating, I will do everything I can do sort it, free of charge.”Central Bylines wishes all our local heroes and everybody who lives in our wonderful region a happy and healthy Christmas and a bright New Year.