Staff do their bit for Christmas

Staff at North Norfolk’s largest social landlord have been embracing the true spirit of Christmas – by donating to a reverse Advent calendar to help less fortunate people enjoy the festive season.

Staff at Victory Housing Trust have each been donating 24 items of food, drink and festive treats to the Advent Calendar – which has seen several boxes of goodies delivered to the Cromer and District Foodbank for distribution to those facing a less than merry Christmas.

Collection organiser Kari Ashling, a tenancy management officer at the trust, delivered the boxes to the Foodbank in time for the items, which also include necessities such as toothbrushes, shampoo and nappies, to be included in the charity’s seasonal distribution.

“The reverse Advent calendar is such a good idea which encourages us to think about the real meaning of Christmas,” said Ms Ashling.  “Colleagues at Victory have really embraced the idea, and we are delighted to be able to donate so much to the Foodbank at the time of year when demand for what it does is at its peak.”

Last month the Foodbank, which has distributed more than 30 tonnes of food to people in crisis across north Norfolk over the past year, was the recipient of a £5,000 grant from the Victory Housing Community Fund to help support the cost of its two part-time project managers.

Further details of the work the Foodbank does, along with details of how to donate and to get help, can be found at

Kari Ashling of Victory Housing Trust presents the Christmas goodies to Cromer and district Foodbank joint project managers Tim Morton and Miranda Hall
PICTURE: Andy Newman

Travel agents launch fifth annual gift appeal in aid of Break charity

Hays Travel, in Aylsham and Sheringham, has launched its fifth annual Santa’s Sleigh appeal to spread cheer and change the lives of vulnerable children and young people this Christmas.

The team is asking people to pop into either branch and donate new, unwrapped items such as toys, gift sets, toiletries, household goods, stationery items or books in aid of the children and families that Norfolk-based charity Break supports throughout East Anglia.

Break supports young people in care, children with disabilities and families who need support, helping them through difficult times and securing a brighter future.

Branch manager of Hays Travel Aylsham (former CAS Travel) and initiator of the appeal Jo Dobbie said: “I like to be involved with the local community and there is nothing better than supporting a local charity especially in the festive season. I absolutely love Break’s ethos and this is a great opportunity for us to show support.

“I initially started Santa’s Sleigh at the Aylsham branch, and then got Sheringham on board with it too. It created bigger awareness for ourselves and for the appeal and we’re pleased to say they will be joining us again this year.”

Danielle Gravestock, senior fundraising officer for Break, said: “We can’t thank Hays Travel enough for the support they give us each year by organising their Santa’s Sleigh appeal.  We are very grateful to all their staff for organising the appeal and everyone who is contributing goods to support it. These gifts really do make a difference to the children and young people we support.”

Santa’s Sleigh started on Saturday and will run for four consecutive weeks until December 9.

Pictured are branch manager Jo Dobbie, Sam Antoniades-Cork, Mark Heffer and Karen Ashford.


Can you sing for Big C this Christmas?

This November and December, Norfolk’s cancer charity, Big C, is calling for local community choirs and musical groups to raise money for the charity at their Christmas performances.

Clive Evans, director of income generation and communications for Big C, said: “Singing and playing music together is good for the soul and a wonderfully festive way to end the year. We would love to hear from anyone who belongs to a singing group, school or church choir, musical group or performing arts centre and is keen to join in with Big C’s Christmas Carols and raise money at their seasonal concerts for local people living with cancer. Every penny raised will go directly to help those affected by cancer in Norfolk and Waveney.”

Last year’s Big C Christmas Carols raised more than £10,000. Performances included Norwich High School for Girls Junior Choir, Simply Sing King’s Lynn Community Choir, Ellingham and Great Dunham schools, Wymondham College, and the children’s ILUVUKE band, as well as staff from the Institute of Food Research, Wymondham’s D’Capo, the Keswick Hall Choir, Big Heart and Soul Choir from Castle Acre and the Fakenham Town Band.

Big C was founded in 1980, when two young men from Norfolk found themselves with cancer and having to travel to London or Cambridge for treatment, often finding this journey harder than the treatment itself. They vowed the people of Norfolk and Waveney would have access to the best treatment and support in their local areas.

Today Big C funds ground-breaking cancer research at the Norwich Research Park and state of the art surgical and diagnostic equipment. The charity also has four drop-in support and information centres across Norfolk and Waveney that are used by thousands of people every year affected by cancer.

If you are interested in holding a Christmas Carol event for Big C, contact Claire Feek, fundraising administrator on 01603 964501 or

Recycle your Christmas leftovers

Christmas may be a fun time of year, but it also produces a huge amount of waste. This year, Norwich City Council is offering residents even more ways to recycle their Christmas leftovers.

Christmas trees
There will be a ‘real’ Christmas tree drop off point in Waterloo Park car park until January 13. Decorations must be removed first. Trees can also be taken to Swanton Road recycling centre.

Leftover food
Gone overboard with the Christmas food shopping? Norwich City Council offers a weekly food collection service. Simply pop your leftovers in your black food caddy and place out next to your recycling or refuse bin on your collection day.

Wrapping paper and cards
Clean wrapping paper and cards can all be recycled in your blue bin. Christmas cards can also be recycled through some city centre  stores.

Unwanted presents or just having a clear out? 
Did Santa get it wrong this year? Norwich City Council will collect any unwanted small electrical items, such as hairdryers or shavers, as well as old batteries, as part of anew weekly service. They can also collect your unwanted textiles. Simply put  electrical items and batteries in a standard sized plastic bag, textiles in a separate bag, and leave beside the recycling or refuse bin on collection day.

Unwanted presents can also be donated to a favourite charity shop.

For more information about waste and recycling go to


Council car park to open for Cromer fireworks

North Norfolk District Council will be opening its headquarters’ car park for Cromer New Year’s Day fireworks, creating 250 extra car parking spaces.

The car park will open at 2pm and entrance will be £2 per vehicle. The display itself takes place at 5pm from Cromer Pier and is free, although there are bucket collections. The car park will close and be secured at 9pm.

The decision was made following an enquiry from the committee which organises the fireworks.

Tom FitzPatrick, leader of North Norfolk District Council, said: “The Cromer Pier fireworks have become a highly successful annual event. Thousands of people come to visit the town from a wide area. Providing these extra car parking spaces will help spread the pressure on car parking. We hope everyone enjoys the fireworks and their time in Cromer on New Year’s Day.”

North Norfolk District Council car parks will have normal charges except for Runton Road which is a set fee of £2 after 2pm.

Last year's display in full flow

Last year’s display in full flow

Artist Lucy signs up for Holt shopping night

Renowned local artist Lucy Loveheart will be autographing her exclusively designed Christmas cards as part of Holt town late night shopping.

Norfolk-based Lucy, whose work is recognised internationally, penned two card designs for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) to raise valuable funds for the charity this festive season.

On Thursday, December 8, 6-8pm at the EACH shop in Station Road, Lucy will be in store signing her cards for lucky customers. She will be asking for a £1 donation in return for her signature.

The Christmas card designs depict an angel flying in harmony with butterflies and a snow-filled scene of joy in Lucy’s distinctive style, focusing on childhood memories and the world of make-believe.

Jill Gould, EACH Holt shop manager, said: “We are thrilled that Lucy Loveheart will be joining us to sign cards as we open for late night shopping. Our EACH Christmas cards have been hugely popular with customers, particularly Lucy’s designs, so it’s great she’s able to join us for the evening. If you are out for late night shopping please do pop in to see us. We have sell quality items, ideal if you’re doing Christmas on a budget.”

EACH cares for children and young people with life-threatening conditions across the region and is a lifeline to so many families at an unimaginably difficult time. Retail income is a very lucrative income stream for the charity.

For more information on the card signing event please contact Jill Gould, EACH Holt Shop Manager on 01263 713864 or to buy EACH Christmas cards online visit


Welcome to Narnia, at Aylsham High

Aylsham High School is being turned into Narnia in a few weeks’ time.

The floor of the main hall will soon be turned decidedly frosty, with Mr Tumnus’ house in one corner, the lamppost through the back of the wardrobe in another, Mr and Mrs Beaver’s lodge and even the White Witch’s icy castle with inhabitants of Narnia who have been turned to stone.

And for £6 a ticket, members of the public can be transported to Narnia too, to experience Aylsham High School’s production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

As one of the drama staff, Tanya Wiseman said, the audience will feel as if they too have stepped through the back of the wardrobe and entered Narnia.

“The students will be enacting the play on the floor of our main hall rather than the stage, which makes this a very special and atmospheric production indeed. Our aim is to make everyone feel part of the action, as if they’re there in Narnia watching the Pevensey children and Aslan take on the forces of winter,” she said.

There will be 30 students, playing the famous characters … from Aslan to the statues who come to life when the White Witch’s cold-hearted grip on Narnia is broken forever.

Mrs Wiseman said: “It’s quite an amazing production, it’s right up to date. We’ve spent hours getting the feel of it just right. There are sixty pictures on panels to help ‘dress the set’, it looks phenomenal. You’re actually in Narnia, you’ll feel you’re in Narnia. You’ll be in the battlefield, you’ll be with Mr Beaver as he takes you fishing.”

Our picture shows Edmund (Saul Burgess) and Peter (Ally Mitchell) practising their swordsmanship before the great battle. Jess Curtis is Susan and Purdy Harlow is Lucy.

Ben Sayers is Aslan, dressed in a gold waistcoat and bow tie, head girl Olivia Hill is the White Witch and Dominic Lawrence is Mr Tumnus, the fawn. Mr and Mrs Beaver are Thomas Curtis and Bobbi Wilson.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is being performed at Aylsham High School at 7.30pm on Friday 2nd December and at 2.30 and 7.30 on Saturday 3rd December. Tickets for the spring musical Guys and Dolls will also be going on sale then. Tickets are £6 and available from the school’s box office –  or on the door.


It’s beginning to look a lot Like Christmas with Joe

Audiences will be transported to an “amazing winter wonderland” to get them well and truly into the Christmas spirit with festive musical shows in Norfolk and Suffolk this year.

The Joe Ringer Band will present It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas at two venues with the aim of “capturing that feeling of nostalgia through everyone’s favourite tunes”.

The show will launch at Lowestoft Marina Theatre on Friday, December 2, followed by three nights at Norwich Playhouse from Tuesday, December 6 – Thursday, December 8. Their Lowestoft Marina Theatre debut will feature the DPA Academy of Performing Arts show choir made up from youngsters aged 11-18.

Joe said: “This will be our fifth year of Christmas shows, having performed sell-out runs at both the Norwich Playhouse and Dereham Memorial Hall in the past.”

The big band Christmas variety show attracts audiences of all ages, with Joe saying: “There is something in the show for everyone from kids to grandparents. We span the whole range of Christmas songs, from traditional carols and arias, through the swinging crooners of the 1940s and 1950s to modern pop classics.”

Fairytale of New York, Winter Wonderland, White Christmas, All I want for Christmas Is You, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Jingle Bells, I Wish it Could Be Christmas Everyday are just some of the songs the audience can expect.

Joe said this year’s performance would be going all out on the vocal harmonies, with a main cast of six of the region’s top singers performing specially-arranged versions of the favourite tunes. They will be backed by a live band.

“We are lucky enough to have some of East Anglia’s best musicians and vocalists as part of the show. Our band sizes tend range from six to 25 people for our shows. Earlier this year, we performed a big band show to more than 900 people at the Norwich Theatre Royal to standing ovations and great acclaim,” he added.

Joe loves getting into the Christmas spirit, particularly doing a job he loves. “To be able to do what you love for a job and to now be able to bring everyone’s favourite festive classic to life on stage is an amazing thing.

“My first foray into producing a Christmas Show was actually back in 2010. I founded local theatre company Mixed Voice and one of the first things we did was a Christmas Show at the Norwich Assembly House. As the band really took off, I had to leave this behind, but when the opportunity arose to produce our own show, I jumped at the chance and we haven’t looked back since. Throughout the year we play at more than 100 events, from weddings and corporate events to shows and concerts, but we always look forward to December coming around,” he said.

“There is something inexplicably magic about this time of the year and the songs that have been written for and about it. Just hearing those first few bars of your favourite festive tune warms your heart.”

Christmas is also a special time of the year personally for Joe and his family. “I have so many fond memories of past family Christmases growing up in Norwich. The day the Christmas cassette came out in the car was always a special one for me. I think I know every Christmas song by heart, handy as I have very few lyrics to learn.”

This year he will be working right up until Dec 23 with Christmas functions and weddings. “I’ll then enjoy a few days off before resuming the craziness up until New Year’s Eve when we are Center Parcs in Elveden for some afternoon jazz.”

And he added: “I then go into hibernation for three months before the wedding season starts again. I’ve cooked Christmas dinner for the past four years so am hoping for a year off this time. It’s so lovely to have a little time to relax, although I’m sure my mind will probably be on the next project.”

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas will be at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft, on December 2. Tickets are £18 (£16 Concessions) from or 01502 533200 and Norwich Playhouse, December 6-8, 7.30pm. Tickets are £19 (£16 Groups 10+). from the Theatre Royal box office on 01603 63000,

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