Camden’s London Irish Centre (LIC) has launched its Christmas appeal to help raise funds for vulnerable Irish in the capital.
The official launch was on 29 November in line with #GivingTuesday – a global movement which encourages people to think about charity.
Now a full programme of activity is scheduled so that the Irish community can get involved with supporting one another over the festive period. This will include lunches, carol services, bucket-shaking events and volunteer gatherings ensuring that there is something for everyone.
Gary Dunne, Director of Arts and Culture at LIC, explained how it was particularly important to showcase and maintain the values upon which the Centre was built around Christmas. “The whole Centre is based on a community giving model and it is something which continues to this day,” he said. “Everyone gets involved, everyone pitches in and, essentially, it’s about the Irish in London looking after the Irish in London.”
Mr Dunne added that there would be a wide range of events available to cater for the diverse nature of London’s Irish community. Last weekend it hosted ‘The Late Late Toy Show’ where the average age was 25-35. Once the pensioners’ lunches get under way, this will naturally jump.
“We deal with all ages and put on loads of different things because of the wide range of needs,” he explained.
“There will be a whole mix of projects and, while we certainly have a strong older community, there’s also a thriving younger scene at the Centre.
“Whether it’s ‘The Late Late Toy Show’ or a pensioners’ lunch, we’ll have a full house.”
The broad offerings set up as part of the Christmas appeal is essentially an extension on the work carried out by the Irish Centre throughout the year. It regularly offers advice, outreach work and volunteering opportunities as well as lunch clubs, outings and activities.
As Mr Dunne noted, there are two sides to what it provides – a care and support programme as well as social gatherings.
“It’s all about the community for us. We have plenty of fun, diverse social activities but then we’re also on hand to give people any guidance they might need,” he said.
This extends to helping the older members of the Irish community who might struggle with filling in forms and applications which can only be completed online. Community spirit And, at the same time, they will continue to engage with people in the most appropriate manner.
“For example, on Twitter we might be a bit more light-hearted but then we’re big on putting out church newsletters and we’re always willing to talk face to face,” Mr Dunne said.
If the Centre is all about promoting community spirit and making it clear that there is always someone to hand, this is amplified around Christmas. Mr Dunne explained how while this time, for most people, represents joy and comfort, for others, it is associated with increased unhappiness.
“It’s nice to do something like this over Christmas because it can be an incredibly tough time for some people,” he said. “We might think of fun, craic and family but we have to remember that others can feel lonely.”
His words were echoed by the LIC CEO, Seán Kennedy, who encouraged as many people as possible to get involved with the appeal. He said: “For most of us, Christmas means friends and family, presents and looking forward to a great New Year.
“But, for many vulnerable Irish people in London, it means loneliness, a long hard winter and, and with ongoing welfare cuts, a grim time in 2017.
“This appeal helps us to provide support and advice services to those in most need.”
It also has the backing of broadcaster Dermot O’Leary, a patron at LIC and someone who has always been a strong supporter of the Centre and its work.
“It’s a big honour for me to be patron of the LIC. I’m very proud of my Irish heritage; my parents were part of the post war generation of immigrants who came to London to find a new life, so the London Irish community is one that is very close to my heart.
“We want and need the Irish community to support this important work for the Irish in most need,” he said.
The schedule of events will provide just that and it will give people an opportunity not only to engage in the social aspect of LIC but also to think about supporting those who are most vulnerable at this time. A pensioners’ lunch will be held on 7 December from 12.30pm ‘til 6pm, with a second meal pencilled in for 16 December.
There will also be a gathering of up to 130 volunteers on 14 December, two days after the centrepiece of the programme. This is the quintessential Irish Christmas party – a celebration filled with songs, smiles and festive food and drink.
“There will be a mixture of Christmas carols and a few traditional Irish songs,” Mr Dunne said. “It’s definitely the focal point of the fundraising and there’ll be people bucketshaking throughout the evening.
“We’ll have mince pies and mulled wine to add to the festive atmosphere. It will be a real Irish Christmas celebration and certainly not something to be missed.”
The party is likely to involve people from all ages and all Irish backgrounds, which will represent the general makeup of the LIC. It will show how there are different things for different people but, at its heart, it’s about people coming together for the community. And, to top it off, the whole evening will be centred on the great cause of care and giving. While it’s important to have a wonderful time at Christmas, it’s equally important to be grateful for what you have and take the time to think about those less fortunate.
This is what the London Irish Centre’s Christmas Appeal is all about.
The LIC is asking for online donations through JustGiving, by mobile by texting LICX 16 £10 to 70070 to donate £10, or by cash/cheque by calling 020 7916 2222.
Further details on the appeal are available on www.londonirishcentre.org