Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 627

6 1 DECEMBER 2022 News&Views As the sun sets on 1 December, the lights will go on at Pickwick Papers, an interior design company in the centre of Greenwich. It’s the first of 24 Advent windows to be revealed each day until Christmas, creating a living calendar for the community to enjoy. The event has been an annual highlight in the borough for 16 years, and businesses, schools and households spend weeks fashioning their displays. Now, the trend has taken o nationwide, with towns and villages across the country producing their own. Participants get to be as creative as they wish. “Every year, there’s at least one standout window everyone talks about,” saysMaureen Stapleton, who has coordinated the Greenwich event for a decade. Past designs have included a six-foot papier-mâché Big Ben, a workingmodel railway, a whole house wrapped as a gift – and even an optical illusion inspired by Yayoi Kusama’s InfinityMirror Rooms at TateModern. “We’re always bowled over by the creativity and talent of those who take part,” she adds. A sprinkling of festive humour always goes down well at Saltaire inWest Yorkshire. “Onememorable window appeared on 23 December,” recalls Gillian Allmark, the event’s marketingmanager. “It featured a turkey and a helpful reminder: ‘Delia says defrost!’” The village, near Bradford, began the tradition in 2006 after DavidWorsley, founder of arts charity Saltaire Inspired, got the idea fromGerman friends. Today, Saltaire’s dazzling display draws thousands of visitors. There’s even an Advent trail with amap. “The trail creates a lovely festive feel and is used as a backdrop for carolling andmusical entertainment,” says Gillian. “People can be spotted in the streets, maps in hand, discovering the displays.” Those unable to visit in person can follow the event online, where window designs are revealed each evening. Likemany places, Lympstone in Devon launched its version in 2020, to harness community spirit whilemaintaining social distancing. Organiser DoreenMurray had just moved to the coastal village when it went into lockdown. Desperate tomeet people, she came up with the idea with a friend. “I was making it up as I went along and was very relieved once I had 24 volunteers,” she laughs. “But it was a great way to get to know lots of people in a short time.” The event is now a highlight of the village calendar. “This year, many people will have parties on the street outside their windowwhen it’s lit. It’s so lovely and festive,” she says. Hanover in Brighton goes one step further – instead of individual windows, entire streets are illuminated each day until, by the 24th, the town is one giant Christmas decoration. Many streets host parties and carol singing as their lights go on. “The atmosphere is universally warmand friendly,” says Gareth Dee, who helps organise the event. “The first one was a turning point for me. Having lived onmy street for six years, I finally got to meet my neighbours, who invited the whole street to join them for mulled wine andmince pies.” Gareth has received countlessmessages fromother locals telling him the event has enhanced their sense of belonging. “Community doesn’t just happen,” he says. “It needs a nudge. But it’s remarkable how far a bit of e ort can go – and this works really well.” And you don’t have to be a crafter to get involved. “I’m good at many things, but crafting isn’t one of them,” says Gareth, who channels his energy into spreading the word and organisingmince pies for the party. In fact, you don’t even need a window. One Lympstone resident created a display using a light box attached to the fence. The church, meanwhile, creates amusement bymoving life-sized figures of the three kings closer to the churchyard each night, ‘The trail creates a lovely festive feel and is used as a backdrop for carolling and musical entertainment’ ADVENT IS BACK IN STREET CALENDARS With the festive countdown under way, a relatively new tradition is gathering pace across the country, bringing communities together to celebrate, says Lizzie Briggs In focus