Local organisations partner with London’s only Community Council to promote social inclusion this Christmas

Some of the events put on by the Queen’s Park Community Council over the festive period Submitted by Queen’s Park Community Council The Festive Community Lunch in Queen’s Park, Westminster, in London, went ahead just hours before the Prime Minister announced new restrictions on indoor gatherings.

The event, held at the Beethoven Centre, W10, was organised by the Queen’s Park Community Council and the Paddington Development Trust Queen’s Park Community Champions. The Queen’s Park Community Council is London’s only Community Council – a form of local government led by elected councillors with the support of resident working groups. Local young people at the QPG Hub and the Avenues Youth Project, contributed to the festivities by handmaking cards and centrepieces.

Open Age and Age UK Westminster were also integral partners to the event.

Some of the events put on by the Queen’s Park Community Council over the festive period

Staff and volunteers from both organisations provided expert support and engagement with guests. Alongside volunteers from the Community Champions, they also facilitated wellbeing activities and provided advice and signposting. Volunteers also offered table service, bringing attendees a honey-roasted Turkey, Chicken, or stuffed chestnut mushrooms meal complete with trimmings.

Catering for the event was done by the Parlour restaurant, Kensal Rise, a long-term supporter of local initiatives providing warm meals to those in need.

Local organisations partner with London's only Community Council to promote social inclusion this ChristmasSome of the events put on by the Queen’s Park Community Council over the festive period

Thanks to sponsorship from the ESP Foundation in collaboration with Eco World London, attendees also enjoyed mince pies and mulled wine, and received a Christmas hamper to take away. Kind donations from the local M&S and Innocent Drinks which donated a selection of juices and smoothies were included in the hamper too. The Festive Community Lunch is one of three initiatives led by the Queen’s Park Community Council to promote social inclusion during a time of the year when social isolation intensifies.

Local organisations partner with London's only Community Council to promote social inclusion this ChristmasSome of the events put on by the Queen’s Park Community Council over the festive period

On the first Saturday in December, the Community Council hosted its Annual Winter Fair, which welcomed the largest turnout in its eight-year history, despite the cold weather.

QPCC chair, Councillor John McArdle, said: “As a Community Council, we exist to promote social inclusion and cohesion; this is at the heart of all we do. With a record-breaking one thousand residents turning out to this year’s Winter Fair and two thousand at our Fireworks Display in November, the need for community-based social activities is evident.

Local organisations partner with London's only Community Council to promote social inclusion this ChristmasSome of the events put on by the Queen’s Park Community Council over the festive period

“We know that young families, older residents, and people of all demographics are experiencing a turbulent time navigating the ongoing pandemic and growing uncertainty about the future. “People are looking for ways to safely manoeuvre these challenges whilst retaining their sense of connection to the community.

When it is safe and permissible, have aimed to challenge the growing feelings of isolation and uncertainty by bringing the community together. “We strongly believe that sustaining a sense of belonging to the community is essential as we respond to the seemingly ever-changing realities of the pandemic.” Activities at the Winter Festival included donkey rides, craft activities, and snowball fighting for young kids.

Families also visited Santa’s grotto which gave out more than three hundred free presents donated by a local resident.

Local organisations partner with London's only Community Council to promote social inclusion this ChristmasLocal organisations partner with London's only Community Council to promote social inclusion this ChristmasSome of the events put on by the Queen’s Park Community Council over the festive period

Residents were also treated to toasting marshmallows with chocolates and biscuits to make s’mores, hot chocolate, and mulled wine served by QPCC Councillors and volunteers. Eco World London and ESP Foundation also sponsored this event. Cllr Emma Sweeney, who manned the toasting of marshmallows, said: “It is a privilege to be a Community Councillor.

Everyone in the area invests in our work through the precept – a small amount added to each households’ council tax which is allocated to the Community Council. “This is GBP47.31 per year for the average Band D Household, just 91p per week. So, all our activities must be accessible to the entire community; this is why we always provide free or highly subsidised offerings to the community.

Local organisations partner with London's only Community Council to promote social inclusion this ChristmasSome of the events put on by the Queen’s Park Community Council over the festive period

“Some people were surprised that activities and refreshments at the Winter Fair were complimentary and met halal and vegetarian dietary requirements.

But with such a diverse community and a significant disparity between households, it is incumbent upon us to ensure no one is left out.” The Avenues Youth Project, Good Food Box, and a local Duke of Edinburgh group brought their own offering to the celebration: free prize draws, homemade cookies and handmade knitwear, and lots of information, advice, and signposting.

Local organisations partner with London's only Community Council to promote social inclusion this ChristmasLocal organisations partner with London's only Community Council to promote social inclusion this ChristmasSome of the events put on by the Queen’s Park Community Council over the festive period

QPCC’s gardening contractor, the Hammersmith Community Gardens Association, ran a wreath-making stall. The Westminster City Council were also at the event, running a stall consulting resident about the Harrow Road Open Space improvement project.

One resident, Charmaine who attended the Fair with her kids said: “From the free hot cocoa and s’mores to riding donkeys wearing Santa hats and community lead information, fun was had by all. As always meeting a Santa who represents our identity means more than we can say. Thank QPCC for spreading the Christmas cheer.”

The Community Council also organised a Santa Truck complete with a winter wonderland scene, Christmas music, a live Santa, and elves to visit each street of the Queen’s Park, Westminster area.

Local organisations partner with London's only Community Council to promote social inclusion this ChristmasLocal organisations partner with London's only Community Council to promote social inclusion this ChristmasSome of the events put on by the Queen’s Park Community Council over the festive period

The Santa Truck initiative began last Christmas as QPCC sought a creative way to bring the community together whilst maintaining social distancing. This year, Santa Truck toured the Queen’s Park area from December 6 to December 10. In addition to sharing festive greetings with residents waving and recording videos from windows and doorway, Santa and the elves collected donations for those in need.

A Queen’s Park volunteer who joined Santa Truck as an Elf, said: “I had a wonderful time going around the community with the Santa Truck. Many people came out to greet us, and everyone was jolly and excited to see Santa Truck.

“One resident called me over to speak to their elderly parent, who had been housebound for months. We spoke about how excited she was for Christmas and shared a hug.

“Another resident talked to me about her excitement and rushing down from her block of flats to Santa Truck last year and how pleased she is that it had returned. So many of the young children I met also remembered the Santa Truck from last year and looked forward to it returning.” QPCC chair, Cllr John McArdle, said: “The Queen’s Park Community Council is hugely grateful for the commitment and support of all its volunteers and partners who helped make this series of festive activities possible.

“Through these collaborations with residents and other local organisations, the Community Council can best understand and meet community needs.

While we will close our doors for the festive season from December 22 until January 6, we anticipate new opportunities working with residents and organisations in the new year.”

Get all the latest news, updates, things to do and more from London’s dedicated InYourArea feed