Selston - the village where Christmas community spirit thrives all year long

Christmas comes but once a year, so the saying goes.

By Richard Silverwood
Thursday, 26th August 2021, 11:33 am
Emma Olden, other volunteers and children with Santa outside a Christmas display at the old council offices in Selston.
Emma Olden, other volunteers and children with Santa outside a Christmas display at the old council offices in Selston.

But don’t tell that to the 7,000 residents of Selston, who have Yuletide on their minds every single day thanks to a community fundraising initiative the village can be proud of.

"Basically, the only way Selston can have a public Christmas is if it raises money itself,” says volunteer and parish councillor Emma Olden.

"Therefore, we have pulled together to make sure Christmas still happens in the village.”

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A festive picture postcard from Selston (PHOTO BY: Darren Kirk).

In years gone by, Ashfield District Council funded the festive civic displays and decorations for Selston, as with all the villages under its jurisdiction.

But then the council pulled the plug to concentrate on major events for Ashfield’s three big towns only, Sutton, Kirkby and Hucknall.

That left the rural areas to fend for themselves. And what a job Selston is doing of it.

Rather than moan or sulk, the village got organised and now, from one Christmas Day to the next, residents rally round to support a committee of volunteers, headed by Emma, and make sure there is enough money in the coffers to host Christmas treats for all.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse meet four members of the Selston Christmas volunteers' committee, Lisa Simpson, Stuart Fletcher, Emma Olden and Sam Wilson.

"It’s fantastic, and brings the whole village together,” says another volunteer and councillor, Sam Wilson, 50, a farmer from Cherry Hall Farm on Hanstubbin Road in the village. “All the team get so much fun out of it as well.

"We must be the only village in the country that talks about Christmas all year round!

"Last year, we had Santa on his sleigh visiting nearly every street in the parish.”

With Covid-19 restrictions preventing an official lights switch-on, the team also bought every schoolchild in Selston a Christmas gift in the shape of a book or a selection box.

Sacks of donated clothes waiting to be stored in Emma's garage.

Despite Covid, a total of £1,000 was raised in 2020 – thanks to a generous, late top-up by Phil Colclough, of local business, Safe As Houses property services.

But this year, £2,400 has been generated already – and both Sam and Emma are confident a target of £3,000 can be reached before the festive celebrations begin at the end of November.

At the heart of the fundraising has been the collecting, weighing and selling for recycling of unwanted clothes and other fabric materials, such as bedding and curtains.

The response from residents has been phenomenal – to such an extent that Emma, 40, says: “We keep joking that everyone in Selston will be walking around naked soon!

A display at Selston Co-op last Christmas, which includes a star that was lit to pay respect to all those who had lost their lives because of Covid-19.

"I think everyone has been having a clearout because of the pandemic.

"So far, we have received thousands of kilos worth of clothes.”

Sam adds: “It’s quite astronomical. On our last run, we collected 1.2 tonnes, or 1,200 kilos, of clothes and they filled a 16-foot trailer that is eight feet high!”

The team of volunteers pick up the clothes from villagers’ homes, or the items can be dropped off at Emma’s sandwich shop, Selston Sarnies, on Alfreton Road.

Every day after work, she fills her car and takes the clothes home to store them in her garage. Once the garage is full (and that doesn’t take long!), they are taken to the Mansfield-based textile merchant, Savanna Rags, a family-run company that specialises in exporting recycled clothing to needy countries in Africa and Europe.

Savanna Rags weighs them and pays out per kilo. For the 1.2 tonne-haul that Sam mentioned, Selston’s Christmas volunteers bagged £385.

A lucky boy meets Santa and his elves, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse, at a previous Christmas celebration in Selston.

The cash continues to add up, and it won’t be long before the team can begin preparing for the centrepiece of this year’s celebrations, a Christmas Market on Friday, November 26.

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The market will feature stalls selling crafts and cards, rides for the children, a snow machine, Santa’s sleigh again and the switch-on of Selston’s Christmas lights, probably by cartoon characters Mickey Mouse and Minnie, as in previous years.

Those characters are kindly provided by Funtimez at Jimmy Beans, the Sutton-based party and entertainment service. And Emma is full of praise for their help.

"They have been brilliant,” she says. “We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without them.

"We’ve also been working alongside Selston Co-op, who have helped with fundraising and have lights and a display on their site.”

Rather than focus on one area of the village, the team of volunteers have earmarked several sites for festive displays, including the old council offices on Nottingham Road, Portland Road, the parish hall on Mansfield Road and the recreation ground.

"We are also hoping to include Jubilee and New Selston this year because they often feel they are forgotten,” says Emma.

Such inclusivity is very much the byword of Selston’s Christmas fever. So professional is the operation that running comments are provided on Facebook, so that those who have donated clothes can follow the progress of the fundraising.

Despite the hefty cost of electricity, the volunteers have amassed enough money, through kind donations, to pay for Christmas lights for many years ahead.

And so successful has the whole idea been that the neighbouring villages of Jacksdale, Underwood and Westwood are considering mounting their own, similar schemes, says Emma.

As Sam says: “It should be quite a Christmas this year. The displays are always quite impressive, and all the events and attractions will be completely free of charge.”

Emma is full of praise for everyone on the volunteering committee, many of whom are also part of a youth group in Selston, and for all those who have made donations too. But she is not surprised by the support.

"With a community like ours, it’s easy to pull together and achieve the best Christmas displays a village can get,” she says.

It’s called community spirit. In fact, community spirit with bells on. Jingle bells.

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