No one should be alone at Christmas

Pictures Martin Bostock. Free Christmas lunch for the local community at the Newton Arms, Staining.  The staff who cooked and served the lunches.
Pictures Martin Bostock. Free Christmas lunch for the local community at the Newton Arms, Staining. The staff who cooked and served the lunches.
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For many people, Christmas is a time for giving, for curling up in front of the fire with a hot chocolate and their family by their side.

But for some people in Blackpool, the most wonderful time of the year is anything but.

Pictures Martin Bostock. Free Christmas lunch for the local community at the Newton Arms, Staining. Gemma Wilkinson serving up the lunches.

Pictures Martin Bostock. Free Christmas lunch for the local community at the Newton Arms, Staining. Gemma Wilkinson serving up the lunches.

Elderly and disabled people are often left feeling lonely and isolated, trapped inside their homes without so much as a scrap of tinsel to brighten up the room.

That’s where kind-hearted landlady Janette Marsh steps in - determined to make sure nobody misses out on a turkey dinner and a dose of festive cheer at Christmas.

For the third year running, generous Newton Arms manager Janette served up a three course meal including roast turkey, mashed potatoes and veggies to Blackpool’s most vulnerable citizens.

Elderly people from nearby care homes and disabled people from the Brain Injuries Trust and their carers gathered at the pub on Staining Road to enjoy hearty food, good company and Christmas carols sung by children from St John Vianney RC Primary School.

Pictures Martin Bostock. Free Christmas lunch for the local community at the Newton Arms, Staining. Children from St John Vianney school.

Pictures Martin Bostock. Free Christmas lunch for the local community at the Newton Arms, Staining. Children from St John Vianney school.

Janette said: “Everybody really enjoyed it and was singing along with the choir. That just makes it for me.”

Janette decided to bring her community together once a year for a day of festive celebration after being inspired by her carer daughter, Laura, 22, who returned home one Christmas in floods of tears after spending time with people who would have otherwise been all alone on the special day.

With the help of pub owners Mitchells and Butlers, Normoss Co-Op, the Baines Trust, the Coca-Cola European Partners and the Fabrik Property Group, Janette put together the Newton’s first ever Christmas bash in 2014 – and hasn’t looked back since.

Janette said: “My daughter would go out to people and they had nobody. They didn’t have a tree. They didn’t even know it was Christmas.

Pictures Martin Bostock. Free Christmas lunch for the local community at the Newton Arms, Staining.  Hannah Liptrot.

Pictures Martin Bostock. Free Christmas lunch for the local community at the Newton Arms, Staining. Hannah Liptrot.

“This is a way of giving Chrismas to people in our community. We give them all Christmas presents and it’s always a good event.

“I think it’s the best day of the year when you can give something back to the community.”

The celebration brings together people from all walks of life.

Brenda Laycock, 82, from Poulton, was one of more than 60 people invited to the Christmas dinner.

She lives alone and can only leave the house with the help of her dedicated carers.

She said: “I think it’s absolutely magical. This isn’t the first one I’ve been invited to.

“They are very, very caring, wonderful people here and they have given so much attention to detail. The food is excellent.

“I have my carer with me today and this is a treat for both of us. I have to have someone with me because I can’t walk on my own.

“This is a way of helping everyone and bringing us all together.”

Meanwhile Dail Casey, from the Brain Injuries Trust, enjoyed drinks on the house along with the trust’s service users.

She said: “It’s absolutely lovely. Everybody gets treated and it really is wonderful.

“Coming here every year just makes their day. They were up and getting ready at 10am, and they’ll be talking about it for days to come.”

Wyre councillors Barry and Colette Birch and Roger Berry got into the Christmas spirit after helping to organise the event.

Mr Birch said: “We did it last year and it was a great success and we had a great selection of people from the local community.

“A lot of pubs as we all know are big businesses and the Newton Arms is what I would call a true community pub with a strong set of regulars that come in on a weekly basis.

“We have a fantastic landlady who works very hard not only at this function but throughout the year.”