Christmas should be a joyful occasion, full of friends, family and laughter. But for young adults who have recently left care it can be a day to dread. Many spend Christmas on their own, in lonely bedsits or hostels. Last year, a pop-up Manchester organisation decided to give care-leavers a Christmas dinner to remember. And with the power of Crowdfunder they created a magical event.
The Christmas Dinner was founded by the poet Lemn Sissay, who was inspired by a similar event that took place in London in 2012. Realising how life-changing a meal like this could be, he brought together a group of professionals to provide a Christmas Dinner for 45 young care-leavers in Manchester.
Among those who got behind the event was Louise Wallwein, a poet and playwright who had been in care herself. “As a care-leaver I had spent many Christmases on my tod,” she says. “Somebody told me that most care-leavers who commit suicide do so between the ages of 18 and 25, so it made sense to provide a cracking day with sumptuous food for that age group.”
Louise had seen friends successfully crowdfund arts projects such as theatre pieces and films and she realised it would work for The Christmas Dinner. “I did my research and I thought here is a really simple, clear platform that would make the fundraising easy and clear.”
She adds that Crowdfunder was “ace” and gave great tips on running a successful campaign. The first one being “get your film done”.
“Fortunately I know how to write a good script,” says Louise. “We had our hero to tell the story in Lemn and my mate Ricardo Vilela makes good films. I knew my premise for the film would be Lemn arriving in Manchester to come and get this gig sorted. So that’s what we did.
“Lemn is well busy and as luck would have it the only time I could get him in front of the camera was 9.30 am straight off the train from Hebden Bridge. I kept the message very simple and Lemn did the rest. It’s a lovely little scratch movie, which suited our pop-up scratch style campaign.”
The film, and the rest of the campaign, proved such a hit that The Christmas Dinner raised a massive £9,500 through its Crowdfunder campaign last December – almost double its target. There were also countless generous pledges of food and gifts for the event. Among the high profile supporters was BBC 6 Music’s Mary Anne Hobbs, who volunteered on the day and did a sound installation.
The result was a Christmas Dinner to remember. And with the donations pouring in the team even managed to feed 300 more people with the leftovers that evening.
“The most magical moment was when one of the guests suggested we get a karaoke going and it felt like the guests owned the event at that point,” says Louise. “To see our Lemn wellying out a tune on that karaoke backed by this wonderful, talented young woman was the moment for me. It quite honestly is the best Christmas I have ever had.”
Thanks to the phenomenal success of last year’s fundraising efforts the Christmas Dinner will return to Manchester again this year, but the Crowdfunder campaign helped with more than just raising money.
“One of the amazing outcomes was how much we managed to raise awareness of what it’s like to be a care-leaver in this country,” says Louise.
To anyone inspired to launch their own campaign, Louise’s top tip is “follow the advice of Crowdfunder“.
“My hand was held all the way by Simon, who expertly guided me through the whole thing. I felt all the way that I had Simon’s backing and from the Crowdfunder team as a whole.”
And she adds that promoting your project on every social network available is crucial. “If people can’t financially support you, they will certainly share your updates. Get people talking about you.”
Feeling inspired to help change the world this Christmas? Add your campaign now.