It is December already. Christmas is nearly upon us. My children are counting down the sleeps.
For me, the Christmas season begins with the Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre. I love to see our beautiful historic town bedecked with lights and decorations, with carol singers on St John’s Street, and the streets alive with vibrant life.
Thousands of people flock here, to enjoy the atmosphere and entertainment, and to browse the hundreds of stalls selling seasonal fare, crafts and gifts. It is a wonderful spectacle, unmatched by anything else in the region, and you cannot help but feel merry in the midst of it all.
Of course, my children adore it: the buzzing excitement, the fairground rides, and the chance to visit Father Christmas in his grotto. Of course, we could not pass the many toy stalls without a lot of tugging at my coat sleeve, and not so subtle hints about extra presents. Possibly my very favourite bit is the food market, with all its delicious smells and huge variety of treats to choose from.
With all this in mind, what I think is really special about the fayre is that, whilst always being a cosy community event, it welcomes thousands of people from all across the UK. It is cosmopolitan and inclusive, whilst also keeping at its core the importance of the local contributors; from the police, to the traders and, of course, the local schoolchildren who get involved every year.
It appeals to my values, by supporting local businesses, talent, and the region’s economy, and helps to get Bury St Edmunds the national recognition it deserves.
Goodwill and generous spirit is abundant, and everyone involved should be deeply proud of themselves and their community. You help showcase our town at its magical best.
West Suffolk College students are always enthusiastically involved in the event. Once again this year our Performing Arts students were doing what they do best on the various stages around the fayre and also putting on innovative street performances. Our Public Services students could be found fulfilling the vital role of stewards, ensuring every visitor had a safe and enjoyable visit.
This year, our Construction, Art and Design, and Hospitality students were able to get stuck in too. St John’s Street was pedestrianised for the first time and our learners took to the cobbles with stalls of festive fare, games and handmade crafts.
Just like Santa’s elves, our Construction students were busily at work in the weeks leading up to the fayre, making an array of Christmas decorations in wood or plaster moulding. These were then sold from the stalls, with some items even left so that customers could customise them at home.
The Art and Design students designed the banner which greeted the visitors making their way from the train station into the fayre, and our Hospitality students from the Academy of Culinary Arts were showing off their skills alongside Michelin starred chefs in cookery demonstrations at the cathedral.
Every student was a true credit to their families and the college; not only because of their talent and professional manner, but also because all the money they raised goes to support community projects around the county.
So, with another excellent fayre over, the countdown to Christmas is well under way. There are few places as festive in the UK to spend advent that Bury St Edmunds and I, for one, am grateful that my family and I call it home.
So here’s to a safe, healthy, and of course merry Christmas, and hopefully in my house, as in many others, not too early a start on Christmas morning when there are important things to be attended to, such as Christmas stockings.
-- Nikos Savvas is principal of West Suffolk College