Intergalactic thrills and children’s heroes crossed paths with the ultimate superhero, Santa Clause, when Children in Need and Santa Clause, with his fantastic reindeer, arrived in Stanley to aid the needy and bring some early Christmas cheer to the area.
Visitors to the special appeal night bash were able to meet a Minion, from the hit movie series “Despicable Me” and “Peppa Pig”, courtesy of Jilly’s Little Gems, and the Princesses from “Frozen”, courtesy of Ever Ever After Parties, who were present to meet and sing to Children.
Then, the Force Awoke (Pun fully intended- Episode VII-The Force Awakens) when forces of the Imperial Empire in the form of the 99th Garrison, the UK’s largest independent Star Wars costuming group, arrived to maintain order and , of course, pose for photographs.
The iconic Star Wars characters included Stormtroopers, T.I.E. Fighter and support pilots, Imperial Officers, a Death Star Gunner and a Sandtrooper. All of which were incredibly popular with kids and adults, alike.
The 99th Garrison, who accepted an invitation from local photographer and writer, Jim Callan, to attend were more than willing to do their bit for BBC’s Children In Need. Commenting on the evening, Garrison member Nigel Jukes said of the evening, “ It’s a privilege to participate in Children In Need and this is the first time that the we have been to Stanley for anything like this. It’s been a great evening”.
Other than the colourful film and TV characters, there were musical appearances by local singer, Charlotte Lowery, and groups “We Are Not The Same”, “North Road” and the NDA Dance Group who all performed live sets in the academy’s theatre.
Meanwhile, in the adjoining atrium, where the costumed characters were mainly based, there were arts and craft stalls, refreshments, raffles and tombola’s where, in keeping with the theme of the night, there were prizes that ranged from chocolates, pictures and bathroom items to cuddly toys and a giant Pudsey Bear.
The event, the final of three arranged by local teenager Lewis Christie was successfully manned by an excellent team of volunteers, and was supported by Stanley Town Council, North Durham Academy and Stanley Events.
Additionally, it attracted donations from local groups and organisation. One such voluntary group was the Tanfield Lea Countryside Group, who were recently awarded a commendation at the 2014 Environmental Awards for their work on the Harperley Woods Nature Reserve, presented a cheque to Lewis for £100 following a Teddy Bears Picnic in the woods.
This added to the night’s combined total of £1766 and, with several pledges still to be collected, the hopes are that the final figure may top a magical £2000.
The weekend of thrills continued on the Saturday when Santa and his reindeer arrived at Beamish Museum, incidentally the outside broadcast location for Children in Need in 2011, to mark the start of the award winning museum’s Christmas programme of events and to turn on the tree lights.
His arrival was met by thousands of visitors who lined the streets of the Victorian Village and who were also there to greet the real reindeer who proved to be one of the biggest attractions in Stanley over the weekend.
Following the successful visit to Beamish, courtesy of “Reindeer For Rent”, the company behind the care and support for the reindeers, they made another fantastic appearance at the town’s Civic Hall where, corralled outside, they proved a tremendous success with children and adults, alike.
Baby Elvis, April and Oslo took to the visitors to the Civic Hall’s Christmas Fayre as Santa welcomed visitors to his grotto inside. While other visitors took in the variety of craftwork and other homemade products inside centre.
Overall, a highly successful acknowledgement of the BBC’s Children In Need Appeal and the welcoming in of the Christmas season to the town.