Villagers in Amberley are counting down the days to Christmas – but not by flipping open an Advent calendar door and eating chocolate.
Instead they are taking part in a ‘living Advent calendar’ and the doors they are opening are the doors to their own homes for a string of Christmas events with mulled wine and mince pies, poetry reading, biscuit making, handicrafts, art displays and more.
But it’s not just a bit of festive fun - it’s also a fundraiser for the group Freedom from Torture, the only UK charity solely dedicated to providing specialist rehabilitation services for torture survivors.
The living calendar was the brainchild of long-time Freedom from Torture supporter Sue Belgrave who was inspired to help raise cash in September when thousands of refugees from the Middle East and Africa were risking their lives to escape persecution and conflict, hoping to find safety in Europe,
The Living Advent Calendar has 22 different ‘doors’ to open. Behind each door there is a ‘surprise’ sight or activity. They range from sparkling lights to Nativity scenes, carol singing, cookie and bread-making, tea and mince pies by the fire, to origami and Christmas poems.
The first opening was on December 1 wheb more than 60 people attended a village Christmas lunch when the church hall opened its doors. The event culminates on Christmas Eve, with a Nativity procession along Church Street, finishing in a barn where there will be Joseph and Mary with a real baby.
This is not the first time Sue brought Freedom from Torture to the notice of villagers. In the past she has acted as a volunteer holiday host co-ordinator, organising short breaks for torture survivors with host families. She has hosted two refugees from Iran and Somalia in the village. Both young men had fled persecution and had sought asylum in the UK.
Meanwhile Amberley itself, with its picture postcard appearance, is well-used to fundraising. Every two years thousands of people descend on the village to admire the colourful displays at an Open Garden weekend – raising thousands of pounds for charity.