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Bristol Sport stars spread festive cheer for Christmas Presence campaign

Christmas markets, traditional carols and a range of festive activities were the order of the day, as players from each of the Bristol Sport clubs showed their support for the Bristol Sport Foundation’s #ChristmasPresence campaign at Monica Wills House, Southville.

Players from Bristol City, Bristol Rugby, Bristol Flyers, Bristol City Women and Bristol Ladies Rugby were all in attendance as the Foundation staged a Christmas Festival at the St Monica Trust site, as part of the #ChristmasPresence campaign, aimed at raising awareness of loneliness among older people over the festive period. 

The festival saw the players deliver Christmas cards – designed by pupils on the Foundation’s Spectrum Project - to the home’s residents, before taking part in a range of light physical activities, including Tai Chi, Boccia and board games.

A school choir from Victoria Park Primary sang carols, while a mince pie workshop ensured no one went hungry, as the Foundation teamed up with the Bristol Sport clubs and the local community to spread some festive cheer and help tackle a significant issue.

Bristol City's Jamie Paterson and Josh Brownhill speak to a resident at Monica Wills House (JMP UK).

“It was fantastic to join forces with our professional clubs to make a real difference over the festive period,” said chief community officer, Ben Breeze.

“To see the players interacting with the men and women at Monica Wills House was amazing and we hope it goes a long way to ensuring they all have a great Christmas.”

“Throughout the year, Bristol Sport Foundation and its partner charities deliver a range of provision for people over the age of 55, so this is just an expansion of the work already being carried out in the community.”

A 2016 study by Age UK found that 3.5 million people in the UK aged 65+ live alone, while 1.2 million people aged 65+ are classed as persistently or chronically lonely.*

Around 360,000 older people go more than a week without having a conversation with friends or family, while 200,000 go more than a month without social interaction.

Bristol Rugby's Rhodri Williams and Jack Wallace share a cup of tea with residents (JMP UK).

The campaign is aligned with the Bristol Sport Foundation’s Golden Memories programme, a weekly initiative that combines reminiscence sessions with light physical activity to improve the lives of people living with dementia or at risk of social isolation.

“Christmas Presence is a tremendous opportunity to really change the Christmas of hundreds, if not thousands of older people across Bristol,” said Golden Memories programme manager, Kris Tavender.

“Over the last two years, we have developed our Golden Memories programme with Sporting Memories Network to target some of the most vulnerable members of our immediate neighbourhood.

“Now, with the help of our professional sports teams and with the backing of our amazing fans, we can ALL take a look around us and see where a festive smile, a Christmas card and a few minutes of our time this December can really make the difference across the greater Bristol area.”

Children from Victoria Park Primary School sing Christmas carols at Monica Wills House (JMP UK).

St Monica Trust’s Community Development Manager, Debbie Wills, said: “Christmas is a particularly difficult time of year if you are on your own and the Trust is delighted to be supporting the Christmas Presence campaign.

“The community development team has been running a successful befriending service for older people in south Bristol for a number of years now.

“However, we realise that we are just touching the tip of the iceberg with regards to tackling social isolation and working in partnership with the Bristol Sport Foundation is a great opportunity to raise the awareness of this issue.”

To find out more about #ChristmasPresence, Golden Memories or the Bristol Sport Foundation, click here, or follow the charity on social media: @BSFound / facebook.com/bristolsportfoundation

*statistics via of Age UK