For lots of people, Christmas is all about spending time with friends and family, eating and drinking, laughing and making memories. But if you are alone at Christmas time, or unable to afford a Christmas dinner, the festive season can feel like a long, hard slog.
A Chesterfield bar is opening its doors to hungry, homeless and vulnerable people on Christmas Day this year, for the 3rd year running. We spoke to the owner, Benjamin Parr, to find out more.
Tell me a little about your Christmas Day celebrations for lonely and vulnerable people in Chesterfield – what led you to set up the event?
From being a child, I have always loved Christmas. It’s such a magical time of year and I have always been blessed with a loving family, which has meant that every Christmas has been great for me. I know that I am very lucky, I’ve got a great family, great friends and some great businesses filled with great teams of people. Doing what we do on Christmas Day helps us to give something back, share a little love and show our appreciation for all that we do have.
I was born in Nottingham, grew up there and have lived all over, but I arrived in Chesterfield in 2005 and haven’t left! It’s a special town for me as it’s where I got my first manager’s job, bought a house and it’s now where I live with my wife and little boy.
Einstein’s was my first food venture and it was in its first-year trading, in 2015 that we had the idea, sparked by watching the John Lewis advert – Man on the Moon, to open the doors & welcome anyone that needed a belly-full of food or a little company on Christmas Day. It would be great to change the world and ensure that no one goes hungry and no one is lonely – if we can help to do that albeit just for one day then that’s one day better than none!
For those who are not familiar with the event, how does the day work, and who attends?
Any one is welcome to join us on Christmas Day – it’s a totally free event and we team up with a local taxi firm each year to help transport guests to and from the bar. The day generally kicks off about 12.30 with a 3-course dinner, a spot of music & some festive gifts.
We’re really lucky to spend the day with people from all walks of life. There are elderly guests who may not have family around, women and children from refuges, homeless people, and guests who are just setting off on a new part of their life. We all come together, eat some good food, make new friends and share stories.
There are a number of guests that do not yet have the confidence to join us at the bar, so we pop a meal and a pack up of Christmas treats in the car and nip to theirs for a cup of tea – we hope that the more these guests get to know us, the more likely they will be to join us in years to come and hopefully make some new friends.
What does the future look like for the event – are you hoping to expand it in future years to more of your venues?
That’s tough one – and has made us reflect on what we do do… It works at Einstein’s because the team there are like a big family. It’s been important to them since we launched it so the team there invest in the day and it’s become the ‘norm’ for them and me. If any of the teams at my other bars wanted to do it, I’d support them in that but for me, Einstein’s is my home on Christmas Day and the guests become my family. I hope that it is something that we can continue to offer for many years to come!
How can SheffGives followers get involved and lend their support to your scheme?
The only help we really need is in getting in touch with lonely and vulnerable guests and inviting them along to join us. People can get in touch via email – Katie@thebcbgroup.com
And finally, we’re buying, what’s your Christmas cocktail of choice?
It’s not strictly a cocktail but my festive go-to drink of choice has to be a Bailey’s hot chocolate!