Alternative Christmas Fair Review 2022

The Alternative Christmas fair was conceptualised when Michelle Poponne, IAPT Talking Therapies Community Development Manager, identified that more and more residents were experiencing stress and worry around rising fuel cost and other issues that Kensington and Chelsea residents face over the Christmas and winter period back in 2021. The premise behind the thinking of the Alternative Christmas Fair is that as a society, Christmas is seen as a time of joy but for some, it can be a time of financial hardship and worry, loneliness and isolation, grief, increased substance misuse and domestic violence. Any of these factors could impact a person’s wellbeing but at a time of the year when there is pressure to appear happy and buy a memory, it can be unbearable.

This year 2022, the economic situation is even more dire for all of us so the Alternative Christmas Fair was an event to bring together many of the amazing support services the borough has to offer that can help with things like debt management, substance abuse, DV, help with fuel poverty, highlight organisations that will be open over Christmas, activities for people who will be alone over Christmas and a chance to sign up as a volunteer to support these activities/organisations that will be offering support over Christmas.

After the success of last year’s Alternative Christmas Fair, we sought funders and partners which were found in: Change 4 Life, The Innovation Fund, Dalgarno Trust, SMART, Grenfell Health and Wellbeing , Morley College and held two fairs: one in the North of the borough and one in the South acting on feedback from last years events.

The Fair in the South of the Borough was held at the Morley College (Chelsea), 11-3pm on the 13th December

The Fair in the North of the Borough was held Dalgarno Community Centre from 11-3pm on the 16th of December

I requested that every stall holding organisation ran a fun and engaging activity. The reason behind this was to reduce stigma around engaging with a stall that is perhaps offering support with debt or suicidal ideation. The individual could be enquiring about the service provider or they could be interacting with the activity being provided, it anonymised the interaction.

30 Stall holders signed up and despite train strikes and snow, 28 organisations were able to attend on the day. Please see list below:

List of stall holder organisations


Volunteer Centre Kensington and Chelsea

Nucleus Legal advice centre

Westminster City Council / RBKC

Al-hasaniya Moroccan Women Centre

World’S End Neighbourhood Advice Centre

Kensington and Chelsea Social Council sharing information on behalf of the Green Doctors


K&C Mind/CLW

Grenfell Health and Wellbeing service

RBKC (2 teams: Family Hubs & Family Information Service)

The Dalgarno Trust

Family Friends

Community Champions for world’s end and cremorne

Change Grow Live

Citizens Advice Bureau

Dalgarno Trust

Turning Point DAWS Plus


Department of Work and Pension:- North Kensington Jobcentre

Bi borough Public Health

Outside Edge Theatre Company

Clement James Centre

The Listening Place

Neo Health PCN

One You RBKC


Campden Charities

Hestia – Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster Cove

As well as access to the organisation via the stall holders, it also offered free massage by Community Massage London, Free Men’s haircuts, Health and Wellbeing related Quizzes, free healthy and balanced lunch and a bag of free fruit and veg to take home. Plus live workshops:

  • Coping with Christmas delivered by the Recovery College
  • Managing Financial Stress and Worry delivered by Community Living Well
  • Cooking on a Budget  Delivered By Change for Life

Across the 2 events over 350 people attended, 107 at Morley College and more than 243 at Dalgarno Trust.

Organisations have feedback that they found the event to be beneficial; just IAPT alone engaged with over 100 residents with almost 20 being referred into the service on the spot. At the Public Health stall they had over 40 conversations, they had discussions on financial support with dentist/hygienist and support to live well with chronic conditions MSK and Cancer survivors as well as mental health challenges. They also spoke to 16 people about the Healthy Start Card and Social Cycling in RBKC. OneYou relayed that they had the highest number of sign ups into their service they had ever had at one event! And that would emulate some of the techniques that we had implemented at the event.

The event was able to offer targeted support to refugees who attend, enabling them to access internet data, haircuts, and discussions on adult education, clothing – at the time of the event it had been snowing and the average temperature was 4c; most of the refugees did not have suitable clothes, for example one man only had a tshirt and jean jacket to keep him warm. Both the Champions team and GHW instantly provided clothing for them. This inspired the IAPT team to run a clothing drive with the team for refugees, which is under way now.

Residents fed back that the event was fantastic, in fact a couple of people who attended the Chelsea event gained so much from it that they travelled down to the Dalgarno event.