BY Southend West MP Anna Firth – Christmas Festivities
THE winter, it seems, has fully drawn in – but the darkness of the days has been well outshone by the wonderful festive celebrations rife throughout Southend.
I have been fortunate enough to attend fantastic events throughout the area, including wonderful Christmas light switch-ons, over 100 entries to my Christmas card competition, and numerous incredible fairs, which have provided ample opportunities to purchase beautiful gifts for friends and family.
My Independent Shop of the Year, which received over 50 nominations, went to the fantastic On The Brakes, who one nominator described as the ‘epitome of a small independent shop’, due to their ‘service, commitment and attitude.’
My greatest congratulations to them – I hope to see them, and all the other wonderful nominees, continue to go from strength to strength.
It has been a wonderful month for celebrating the local community. The Woodcutters in Leigh has been awarded the title of ‘Best Craft Union Pub’ out of 500 pubs in the pool, and their Christmas switch-on was full of the liveliness expected of such an accolade.
I was also able to celebrate our local community heroes with a thank you event last week, where I invited members of the police force, ambulance workers and Chalkwell Lifeguards, representatives from Welcome to the UK, Southend City Council Housing Team, Citizen’s Advice Southend and St Vincent’s Centre. Emergencies don’t stop for Christmas, and they all do an incredible job keeping us all safe, all year round.
A huge highlight has been the generosity of spirit with which everyone in the community has engaged in my campaign for the donation of toys to the children on Neptune Ward at Southend Hospital.
The campaign, run in tandem with Tesco’s Winter Food donation drive, received more than double the number of donations that it did last year. Delivering the toys this year was one of the most heart-warming experiences of my 2023, and I feel hugely honoured to have been able to do so.
It was rather more freezing to participate in the Mayor’s Charity Fun Dip on Saturday, where, to raise funds for the Music Man Project and Havens Hospices, I plunged into the water at Chalkwell Shelter, dressed in full festive attire.
I absolutely commend the open-water swimmers, such as Bluetits Chill Swimmers, who take the plunge regularly, and for fun rather than charity! I purchased some wonderful neoprene socks from local shop The Gogglebox, which kept my feet very warm and made all the difference in those December waters!
The last few weeks seem to have been full of wonderful Christmas music – including a brilliant concert by Fairways School at Yantlet Housing at the beginning of the month – and over this weekend, I was delighted to also attend Christmas concerts by Music Man and Southend Bach Choir.
The Music Man Christmas Concert was, as ever, outstanding – I am so pleased to see them going from strength to strength. The Southend Bach Choir delivered a particularly beautiful concert at St Andrew’s Church in support of HARP, Southend’s leading homelessness charity, provide housing, advice and support to early 1,000 people each year at risk of losing their home or experiencing homelessness.
They provide supported housing as well as trauma-informed support and emergency accommodation. I am incredibly proud of the work that they do, and would like to encourage everyone in the local community to continue to support their work in this festive period.
I have been so proud that the festive spirit has been so strong throughout Southend, and however you celebrate, I would like to extend all my very best wishes for the coming weeks ahead, and for a very happy and healthy 2024.
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