Feature – Clarendon’s 2020 charity winter gardens

Written by Rhiannon Jenkins

From December 1st, decorations and lights will start to adorn the windows and front gardens of Clarendon Park, and not just because of the usual festive spirit. Organised by Sam Oldman, founder of Oldman and Sons’ Therapeutic Gardens, 2020 Charity Winter Gardens is asking people to brighten up the streets, all for a good cause—or, more accurately, eight good causes.

Those who are participating will display a poster next to their ornaments, featuring a QR code that links to their chosen charity of the eight. Passers-by will be able to donate through the link, spreading the seasonal cheer.

“I was conscious going into the winter season that there wasn’t much to look forwards to,” Sam Oldman told us, “I wanted to focus on giving back to the community whilst working within social distancing limitations. Usually, around this time of year, I’d be looking to regenerate a local community space, so wanted to do something that could combine that and support heavily impacted charities.”

Sam’s gardening business offers the expected therapeutic services to commercial individuals but, also, already has a charitable side to it. During normal term time, Sam takes on young people who are dealing with Autism and other social difficulties, working one-on-one to improve their confidence and self-esteem. He takes them out to work with him, providing advice on budgeting too and getting a start in the working world, which can be a struggle even at the best of times.

(Oldman and Sons)

Inspired by other local and national community efforts—such as the pumpkin spotting walk for Halloween and #ClapforCarers—Sam sat down and worked out a way to combine gardening and charity.

There’s already been wide support for the event, with local businesses signing up and Facebook group Leicester Clarendon Park online community showing their love for the idea too. On Queens Road alone we can expect to see the Bloom Project, Tiny Bakery, The Allotment and Morelli’s barbershop, amongst others, taking part. Meanwhile, if you swing by Allandale Road, the Real Ale Classroom and L’Homme gentleman’s grooming lounge will also have their windows brightly decorated.

All of them, as well as any individual household taking part, will be supporting their selected charity, chosen from Lamp, Hope against cancer, One Roof Leicester, Leicester City of Sanctuary, Menphys, Leicester South Foodbank, Home-start Horizons and Leicestershire Cares. The charities range from a local foodbank to mental health support to supporting carer families, and more information on them can be found on the Charity Gardens website.

“I wanted to identify who’s been the most impacted during the crisis and therefore raise as much awareness for them as possible.”

As told on the website, 72% of charities have had an increased demand due to the coronavirus pandemic and 80% of charities have reported a negative impact on fundraising because of the pandemic. Whilst Sam’s not experienced in crowd fundraising (despite having done several individual fundraisers over the years), he’s hoping it can unite the community even more:

“This year is exceptional, and charities make up such a massive part of our community. We wanted to get people out of the house and recognise that people are still doing things for that community.”

A community that infamously has a large student population too:

“I definitely think students can be involved; they’ve had a really hard time […] they’ve been put in a difficult position. You’re asked to come back because you’re paying for a room and then you have such restricted space. Would be brilliant if students got involved and we could see lots of variety—comedy and tasteful windows. Just go for it.”

It seems unlikely that Clarendon Park won’t rise to the occasion, so those dark, daylight saving evenings will be getting a lot brighter once December arrives. After a tumultuous year, it will be heart-warming to see people digging deep (for decorations and donations) all in support of our community.

“We’re trying to raise awareness and create a community when we can’t celebrate as we normally would, that’s what this is about.”

Rhiannon Jenkins is a final year English student passionate about activism, film & literature and travel. She also acts as Arts & Culture Chief Editor. You can find her on Instagram here: @rrhiannonj.

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