A winter of discontent due to the current economic crisis has led to a new community group in Darlington organising a Christmas party for local children.

Youngsters in Darlington enjoyed an afternoon of fun, food, face-paints and Father Christmas at a free party organised by Darlington People’s Assembly (DPA), which campaigns against the effects of austerity.

Around 40 children danced to a disco, played games, received a bag of gifts from Santa, and filled themselves up with hot dogs, cake and chocolate while their parents enjoyed a warming soup and mince pies.

It was all provided free by local businesses and through donations from friends of the organiser, Ashley Blakey, who is co-ordinator of DPA.

The Northern Echo: Volunteers doing face-painting with childrenVolunteers doing face-painting with children (Image: Darlington People's Assembly)

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The Northern Echo: Volunteers with members of Darlington People's AssemblyVolunteers with members of Darlington People's Assembly (Image: Darlington People's Assembly)

The party took place on Sunday (December 11) at Clifton Community Centre, where regulars provided a “Santa’s grotto.”

The group also thanked Skerne Park Academy for handing out invitations to parents.

Ms Blakey, who lives at Firthmoor, said: “Families are now deep into a winter of anxiety, worrying about the effects on their children of the soaring cost of living. Christmas should be a time of joy and a little luxury but huge numbers of people are, instead, suffering from cold, hunger and anxiety about making ends meet. Most of all, they worry about giving their children a secure future.

“We know that our little party only has the effect of putting a sticking plaster on a gaping wound, but it demonstrated that there are people in the town who care and are prepared to help out. And it provided a couple of hours of worry-free joy, plus some goodies to take home for Christmas Day.

“The response from local businesses – which are themselves feeling the pinch – has been unbelievable. We’ve been given presents for the children, masses of food,  a little money, a free disco starring Alex Ridley and lots of heartwarming goodwill.

“We make no apology for listing those who contributed. They don’t expect it but they deserve recognition. They include Boyes, The Boot and Shoe, Three Squares Café, Mrs Palmer’s Pantry, Cake Away, The Cornmill sweet shop, Bank Top Bakery, Ron Clark’s greengrocer’s, D&S News, Kelly’s Smellies, Nisa on Firthmoor, King’s Church, Sainsbury’s and Queen Street’s Crazy Gifts, Bobby’s Batteries and Mobilez (correct) World.

“And we mustn’t forget the fantastic volunteers who came to help over the two days it took to prepare and stage the event.

“Their enthusiasm and the children’s smiles made it a day to remember. In fact, we all decided – including some of the parents -- to continue as a voluntary organisation and, on the spot, formed the Darlington Community Action group.

“You will be hearing from us again soon as we try to counter inequalities and provide some positive help, not only for those in need, but for everyone whose lives are being blighted by economic chaos over which they have no control.”

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