A Leeds-based arts and social change charity is currently working overtime to produce and deliver more than 1,000 Christmas packs to families and individuals across the City.

Award-winning arts and social change charity Space2, part of the Orion Consortium in East and NE Leeds, successfully applied for Community Fund Covid-19 Response emergency funding which has enabled it to deliver a range of services to struggling families and isolated communities throughout the pandemic.

Space2’s joint CEO, Dawn Fuller, said: “Christmas marks the end of a long and busy year for us. The Covid-19 emergency highlighted a large number of needs across communities in Leeds. Whilst many theatres and arts organisations were forced to close we made the decision, right at the beginning of lockdown, to stay active and stay connected.”

The Christmas packs will be targeted at families and isolated men in East and North East Leeds, and women from across the City, of which 100 were nominated through an online campaign. They will include food, sweet treats, books, crafts and other creative activities.

Space2 creative programmes manager, Emma Goodway, is co-ordinating the packs: “We just wanted to bring a smile to people’s faces,” she said. “2020 has been so challenging for us all, but if you are living alone or short of money it’s even harder.”

The team are busy putting together 60 hampers for isolated men in Seacroft, Gipton, Chapeltown and Meanwood. The hampers will include books of word searches, socks, shower products, mince pies, oranges, soup, pasta and postcards of local areas photographed by artist Kevin Hickson. They will also have stories and writing prompts created by Found Fiction, a local organisation which collects stories from across the world and leaves them to be found in different places.

Natural festive packs will offer participants the materials to make four festive craft pieces (Grass Basket, Spice Tree, Willow Star, Willow Wreath). They will also receive demonstration videos and are invited to four Zoom sessions focusing on each activity, with the aim of giving isolated people a chance to be creative and socialise.

400 Women’s Packs are being distributed in partnership with Women’s Lives Leeds, including period poverty products donated by local period poverty charity Freedom for Girls.

And 500 ‘Bags of Joy’ have been created in partnership with Gipton Old Fire Station, The East Leeds Project, funded by the Council’s Inner East Community Committee with donations from ASDA, Morrisons and Child Friendly Leeds. They will include sweet treats and art and craft activities for children.

In addition a number of the packs include helpful leaflets and signposting information to other services over the Christmas period, such as mental health support.

The Community Fund Covid-19 response funding has also enabled Space2, in partnership with The Old Fire Station, Zest and Health Watch, to deliver a range of support services during the pandemic, including:

  • Mobilising and supporting 23 volunteers to provide a range of emergency support for people in the Gipton and Harehills areas of Leeds affected by Covid 19; from providing food parcels to shopping for essential items and collecting pharmacy prescriptions.

  • Signposting and referring recipients to a wide range of other services. When speaking to families to arrange emergency food Space2 staff built up trusting relationships and gained a greater understanding of their needs. For one family this included helping them to save £150 a year on their energy bills via referral to ‘Green Doctors’, assisting them to apply for a Family Fund for families with disabilities, and being involved in Zest’s ‘Fill Your Freezer’ session, learning to prepare simple meals which can be frozen during Lockdown.

  • Delivering remote Parent and Tots sessions every week, providing children’s books and craft activities alongside Zoom sessions for parents to share ideas and mutual support. These sessions offered isolated parents and tots a chance to do something fun and creative, and socialise with other parents.

  • Producing and distributing 2500 flyers helping people to stay safe by giving current advice on local Covid-19 guidelines. Space2 staff will be delivering a further 2500 flyers locally with information on emergency support over the Christmas period.