The events industry joined forces to put on the UK’s biggest ever free Christmas party, inviting 900 elderly or vulnerable guest to a day of celebration, good food and great company.
This was the first day in months Len Fisher had left his home. He usually spends his time caring for his wife. She was not well enough to attend One Day at Christmas, but for Len it was a glimmer of respite and the chance to be looked after rather than do the looking after for a change.
“It means everything,” he said with a tear in his eye before heading home after his day at ExCeL. “I’m lost for words.”
Kathy O’Brien had lost so much weight because she was worried about her bills, that the new coat she bought to keep her warm with the heating turned off is now too big. But for one day on 5 December, Kathy was warmed by the company, dancing with new friends, a hot meal and a glass of sherry or two.
“You have all looked after me so well,” she said. “I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun.”
Around 900 guests from the communities that surround ExCeL London, the NEC in Birmingham and Scottish Events Campus in Glasgow were welcomed into the venues for a Christmas party like no other.
Mash Media managing director Julian Agostini (right) started the event as a way to bring the events industry together and give back in 2014. This year’s event was the UK’s biggest ever free Christmas party, taking place across all three venues simultaneously for the first time.
He said: “If you look around the room, there are so many smiles, we are making people happy, and including people who are so grateful to have a day like this. Hopefully they make a friend or two which is the legacy of it. We have had so many volunteers, so many people throwing weight money, effort and everything in to it, from our wonderful industry who create experiences and get people together.”
Care assistant Samantha Cashford, accompanied a group of residents from Leah Lodge care home in Blackheath to the ExCel Event.
“This really does mean a huge amount. We look after a number of people with dementia, so events like this wouldn’t be suitable for everyone, but for those who can attend it is brilliant.
“The group I brought today have had a really amazing day and we can’t thank everyone enough for all their hard work. I don’t know how we got invited but we would definitely love to come again next year.”
Nick Coffee, head of business development at ExCeL said: “It’s amazing to have so many people here. We are so much part of the local community, but it’s so nice to meet people who don’t typically come to trade shows or conferences. We’ve had a chance to meet some lovely people today who have lived here all their life.
Dan Thurlow, director of exhibition sales at SEC, said: “Our sector has always had a wonderful ability for collaboration, and One Day at Christmas is a perfect example of us coming together for a great cause.
“We’ve been delighted with the enthusiasm of the team here who all jumped at the chance to get involved in what was a brilliant day. I’d like to thank everyone for the time, energy and ideas contributed. We’re already looking forward to next year.”
Mayor of Solihull Ken Meeson who attended the NEC event said: “There’s about 300 people here which is great, particularly at this time when people are worried about fuel bills and paying for food. It’s great to come somewhere like this, that is not only warm, they are well fed and having good fun, that is supported by so many organisations across the borough who do tremendous work.”
Alan Goodman, director of event operations at the NEC’s two arenas said: “I think the older generation get a bit of a raw deal in this country. For us a venue to do something for our locally elderly people is really special.”
NEC Campus general manager Gary Masters added: “It’s a really special day. It’s great to engage with the local community, to give them something to look forward to and say thank you to everything they’ve done for us.”
Volunteers at ExCeL for One Day at Christmas 2022
Lori Hoinkes, chief growth officer at Montgomery Group said volunteering had “really put me in the Christmas spirit”
“It was so wonderful to see people dancing even before we served lunch, they were just in super high spirits. This is such a wonderful way to give back and support the communities who live around the venues that we rely so heavily on.”
James Lee, of Step Connect 2 said: “Three events in one day in three locations is pretty amazing to pull off.”
Toby Wand, 365 Events, said: “It’s been going for a while but built huge momentum this year and to run it across three venues on the same day is terrific.”
Peter Jones, CEO of Nineteen Group, who was volunteering in Birmingam said: “It’s important to give back. This is a wonderful event and it’s so nice to see these people come together and enjoy the spirit of Christmas.”
A highlights gallery is included below.