The beginning of the Advent season, signifying the start of an exciting 25 day countdown to Christmas, was marked by the annual St John’s Hospice Christmas Fayre. Last Sunday (1st December 2019), beneath the elegant light-up Christmas wreaths hanging from the streetlights, stalls lined St John’s Wood High Street in a bustling fair lasting from 11am to 6pm, closing off access to the street during the day. Activities ranged from children’s face painting to trampolines to a merry go round; a myriad of food stalls offered an international mix of cuisine including German bratwurst and Vietnamese dumplings.

Christmas was in the air, of course, with Christmas-themed jewellery, gingerbread and advent calendars on sale. Families braced the cold, holding cups of mulled wine, while queueing for the ever-popular Christmas Grotto (featuring the one and only Father Christmas); there was even the opportunity to stir a traditional Christmas pudding and make a wish! Roaming the streets of St John’s Wood, a brand new attraction could be spotted in the form of two horses dressed as ’reindeer’ pulling a holly-covered carriage in a festive horse and carriage ride around the scenic area.

Although mainly aimed at younger children, the fair also had Christmassy (among other) music performances throughout the day - as well as local school and sponsor Saint Christina’s School to perform. A rock band, jazz band and pop choir serenaded us with Christmas tunes onstage in the Community Tent. Local businesses and smaller stallholders brought the street to life - amongst the brightly coloured rides - with regional food and artisanal produce. There was a definite theme of sustainability thanks to the fairtrade advent calendars and recyclable tea (as opposed to teabags) on offer. With something for everyone, entertainment and enjoyment were guaranteed; it comes as no surprise that the Fayre attracts many residents and tourists alike each year. Last year, over £15,000 was raised and thousands of tokens for rides were sold.

All profits from the St John’s Wood Hospice stalls and rides will go towards the charity’s work: based in the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth, the Hospice has provided palliative care to the terminally ill since 1984. Patients with conditions such as cancer or motor neurone disease can access support, therapy and maintain their dignity thanks to the senior management team along with an array of volunteers. The organisation spends at least £5.7 million a year on vital services - of which at least £1.8 million is raised by the public.

Want more family-friendly fun and to help St John’s Hospice carry out their invaluable work? Look out for the next Easter Fayre around March/April 2020, and the subsequent vibrant Summer Fayres in St John’s Wood and Paddington to be held around June/July.

By Isabelle Ho