The Bristol Road christmas party

Many exciting Christmas events and celebrations took place in our services around the country. Here are a few of those festive events that took place:

1101 Bristol Road, Birmingham

Service users Richard, Mark and Gary, accompanied by staff from our Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust (BIRT) service 1101 Bristol Road in Birmingham, joined up with their local Headway community group for their Christmas party which was held at the local pub on Saturday 26th November.

There was a rocking disco and a tasty buffet on offer and everyone had an amazing time. Mark said: “It was a great night and lovely to meet other people both young and old and their families.” Richard said he felt very Christmassy in his red jacket and Christmas hat and loved being out for the evening. Gary commented: “It has been sometime since I went to a party and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The food and dancing was all good."

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Chalkdown House, Swindon

BIRT centre Chalkdown House in Swindon have been making the most of the donations they have received through the Eyes Alight fundraising appeal, using it to engage service users in some wonderful Christmas activities. From pantomime tickets for a service user, his wife and children, to dinner out at a restaurant, to paying for travel and lunch for a service user and staff member’s day trip to Bath so he could purchase some Christmas presents.

The bulk of the funds have gone towards a trip to Winter Wonderland, with service users allocated a certain amount each to buy snacks, extra rides and memorabilia. The group enjoyed a festive coach trip to Hyde Park last week, and were extremely grateful when the coach company’s owner Roger called to say he would kindly reimburse the centre for the journey. The Christmas spirit couldn’t even be dampened by the London traffic, with service user Lucky commenting that: “It was a good day out. It was worth the long coach journey to get there.”

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Shinewater Court, Eastbourne

Shinewater Court in Eastbourne got into the Christmas spirit during December with a brilliant range of seasonal activities. They held a ‘Dress as an Elf on the Twelf’ day where Anita Cobb (Service Manager), Bernice Gatehouse (Assistant Manager) and Di Scrivens (Team Leader) all donned their finest elf attire for the occasion – as you can see from the photo they all looked fabulous!

Service users Abi, Dean and Linda also enjoyed a trip to the Christmas Market held at Eastbourne Bandstand. The group had a very Christmassy morning soaking up the festive vibes and enjoying the wintery sun as it made the sea sparkle.

Linda said: “I was feeling under the weather with a cold but this morning has done me some good. Maybe it's the sea air?”

There were plenty of market stalls to peruse and delicious coffee on offer according to Dean who said of the day: “We had a lovely coffee, a nice stroll along the prom and lovely company. We had a laugh.” Sounds like it was a great day, even if Abi’s luck wasn’t in as she said: “I thought I would get lucky on the tombola – but I didn’t win.”

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Thomas Edward Mitton House (TEM), Milton Keynes

The Eyes Alight appeal donations have been paving the way for fun at BIRT centre TEM House in Milton Keynes. The place felt less like a centre and more like Noah’s Ark when residents there were visited by Teaching Talons and a menagerie of wildlife recently. Service users and staff were introduced to and were able to touch and hold giant cockroaches, a giant African land snail, a dragon (lizard), rats, guinea pigs and hedgehogs. There was even an adorable performing dog that put on a show for the group. It looks like it was an interesting experience for everyone.

One of the service user’s at TEM went to a flight simulator experience with money raised by the Eyes Alight appeal and had a really good time, although he did comment that he would rather it was a helicopter than a Boeing 737. Apparently he was a natural, making a perfect landing at Kuala Lumpur airport.

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Redford Court, Liverpool

On Sunday 11th of December, men and women at BIRT centre, Redford Court in Liverpool, participated in a Carol singing and Thanksgiving service at St. Nicholas Parish Church.

The event, organised by Redford Court’s Service User and Family Liaison Officer, Michael Boardman, saw a mixture of staff, service users and friends and family delivering readings and singing Christmas carols.

The event was described as a ‘milestone’ for Andrew Catahan from Manchester (pictured front row left wearing golden hat) who is relearning lost skills with the support of BIRT’s expert team, after he was seriously injured in a hit-and-run incident in 2010.

Nicholas Catahan, Andrew’s brother said: "The Redford Court Christmas Carol Service at St. Nick's Liverpool Parish Church was awe-inspiring for all those who attended. It was a monumental event for our Andrew, family and friends. It marked the magical beginning of Christmas but also a key milestone in Andrew's ongoing recovery and the amazing work of Redford Court. We can't thank Michael and the support enough; it really did lift all of our spirits and touched our hearts.”

BIRT Divisional Manager (North) Kerri Tunstall added: “This is another example of the great work Michael and the wider BIRT team does and the real impact it has on families”.

The Woodmill have fun at a Christmas pantomime

The Woodmill, Devon

BIRT centre, The Woodmill in Devon were visited by a few helpful elves (Support Workers, Louise and Michelle, and Maintenance Man, Chris) in the run up to Christmas who adorned the walls of the centre with tinsel, glitter and glam for the festive period. The team did a fantastic job, and service user Zach also got involved to bring some Christmas cheer; helping to hang nearly 100 baubles from the ceiling.

Michelle said: “Zach was a great help and with a good bit of team work we’ve covered the entirety of one of the corridors with some beautiful decorations and it looks great, thanks Zach!”

The service also had a visit from the local pantomime (right) that came to perform Dick Wittington. Staff transformed an area of the centre into an auditorium and nearly 20 service users and staff gathered to watch the show. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves and Pauline, a service user, said: “It’s so lovely to sing so many songs all together – I really love Christmas!”

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Ernest Kleinwort Court (EKC), Burgess Hill

Ernest Kleinwort Court (EKC) in Burgess Hill have been getting festive with a visit from Sheddingdean Baptist church who came to sing traditional carols. Service users Yolande and Rachel have been members of the choir for a few years now, and Yolande has recently decided to become a reader for the church too. Everyone said it was nice to have a festive sing song and enjoy a mince pie together afterwards.

EKC also hosted a Mr and Mrs Claus fancy dress day which both service users and staff got involved with. The service user who won was Giles, followed by Christian who came a close second. The winner of the staff award was Ash, and second place was awarded to Gary the Chef. It was a really fun day and everyone enjoyed getting dressed up.

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Graham Anderson House (GAH), Glasgow

Thursday 13th December was Christmas decoration day at Graham Anderson House Eastfields in Glasgow. The service users were very excited and as it was a new project the group were on the hunt for a real 7ft Christmas tree. The service users suggested asking the local shops in the community if they could perhaps donate one to BIRT, so Patricia Byrne (Team Leader) called Homebase to put forward their request, explaining that it would be a welcome and most gratefully received gift to the service users.

The Deputy Manager of Homebase, Lorraine, kindly agreed and invited the service users to come and choose any real Christmas tree they wished and they were delighted. There was so much to decorate and the aroma of the tree lifted everyone’s spirits beautifully in the run up to the big day, making it a real talking point at the centre.

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Victoria House, Hull

Angie Hardie, Activities Coordinator from Victoria House in Hull, has been busy as usual making lots of plans during the festive period to keep the men and women at the centre entertained in the run up to Christmas. The annual visit from Victoria Dock School choir was arranged and 68 children performed carols for the service users and enjoyed mince pies and refreshments afterwards. The service was a hit with everyone as always and it’s lovely that each year more children come to perform.

Another carol service was held at the centre with singers from the local church coming to sing with the service users as they do every year. Christmas carols were requested, including one by Shirley, who as you can see got up and performed alongside the singer.

The annual Christmas family meal was also hosted at Victoria House during December. Service users and their families enjoyed a slap up three course dinner cooked by the fabulous Darren (Chef), who did a wonderful job serving 54 hot meals to the attendees. The singer, Christy Clifford, made a return visit and entertained the guests with her performance – including having a boogie with resident Colleen – and then spent time sitting down and talking to the people who live there.

Angie said: “The whole night was great and the staff and I served everyone and did a great job. I cannot thank them enough. We were told we are better than any Toby Carvery pub and that’s saying something! I’m so proud it went well.”

The night also helped to raise a fantastic £212 for the #ConnectAbility appeal. Well done Angie for organising such a wonderful event and to all the staff who helped make it flow so smoothly!