Variety Wessex didn’t let the pandemic stop them from bringing some much-needed, Covid-safe Christmas celebrations to hundreds of children in Bournemouth. After a difficult year, it was a delight to see joy and laughter on the children’s faces as they were treated to the magic and sparkle of Zoom-based live entertainment shows, presents and even socially-distanced visits from Santa.

Covid-safe Variety Christmas parties at Bethany School, Bournemouth

Nearly 400 lucky children enjoyed Christmas parties at Bethany School, Bournemouth, this year – thanks to Variety. There was live entertainment and even visits from Father Christmas.

Covid rules meant that the annual Variety Christmas party was in jeopardy, but by holding the celebrations in their separate year groups at school instead of at the usual hotel venue, the youngsters, aged seven to eleven, had a fine time. The school did a wonderful job of ensuring that social distancing was observed, and juggling their pupils’ current staggered hometimes, so allowing the children to fully enjoy some Christmas fun.

Live entertainment was provided by children’s entertainers Krazy Kev and Pete Matthews. The ever-popular Krazy Kev performed magic tricks and told jokes that were greatly enjoyed by years three and four. The children joined in with rhymes and hand-clapping games. He said: “As always it was a pleasure to perform for Bethany School pupils and teachers, thanks to Variety Club! It was also great to be back in front of a live audience!!”

Pete Matthews, the Crazy Juggler, amazed and amused year 5 and 6 pupils with his hysterical comedy and juggling routines. He said: “I’m delighted to be performing shows for schools at this difficult and strange time. I’ve always been a great supporter of Variety and the work they do, and I know that the children that benefit from Variety’s hard work love the shows we do for them.”

The two youngest year groups also had a visit from Father Christmas, who brought gifts for all the boys and girls. Although he couldn’t personally present the gifts, he answered lots of questions, revealing his age as “more than a million years” and explaining why he wasn’t wearing snow boots. There were lots of questions about how he looks after his reindeers too.

Frances Cornelius, Chair of Variety Wessex, with committee member, Judy Hiscoke, and Father Christmas

Frances Cornelius, Chair of Variety Wessex, said: “Thank you to everyone who contributed to these parties that gave so much pleasure to all the children. Particular thanks go to The Foresters and Shan and the Bournemouth Boys Club, who supplied all the lovely presents, to Krazy Kev and Pete Mathews who provided entertainment that everyone enjoyed, to Father Christmas who managed to find a break in his busy schedule to visit the school twice, and also Liz Rawson-Jones and the wonderful staff at Bethany who enabled us to give these deserving children some festive fun”.

Liz Rawson-Jones, pastoral lead at Bethany School, said: “A huge thank you to Krazy Kev, Pete Matthews and, of course, to the main man himself, Santa, for making such a difference to our children here at Bethany. They had an amazing time being fascinated by Krazy Kev doing his magic and marvelling at Pete’s juggling. They both made the children laugh and laugh! When Santa came into the hall, the children could not believe their eyes – he was actually in their school, talking to them and they could even ask him questions!

Krazy Kev performing live over Zoom video link

The only downside was that you, Frances, could not be there to see all these little faces, full of joy and laughter, having so much fun after such an awful year. It makes you really believe in the magic of Christmas to see so many happy little faces. Thank you.

Wishing you and all your merry helpers a Happy Christmas and wonderful New Year.”

Covid-safe Variety Christmas parties at Linwood School, Bournemouth

Krazy Kev made Christmas very special at Linwood School, Bournemouth, thanks to Variety. He provided wonderful entertainment via Zoom for pupils at the school’s Springwood, Littlewood and Linwood/Woodford campuses. There were also lots of gifts and, for some of the lucky children, a socially-distanced visit from Santa.

Phase leader Alice Stow from the Springwood Campus explained: “The children here thoroughly enjoyed Krazy Kev’s show on Monday 14th December. They were delighted to receive their gifts of chocolates, which they opened and enjoyed with the show. In previous years, our children have attended the Variety Christmas party; most really enjoy this, but some find it overwhelming and we have to carefully consider which children will cope with the party. This year, however, teachers commented on how ‘Autism friendly’ the arrangement was (a plus side of Covid!). All of the children in the four classes he held live Zoom video link shows with were completely engaged throughout. They benefitted from being in the familiar environment of their own classrooms, and could focus on all the hilarity and magic that Krazy Kev delighted them with. They all joined in, and the laughs and shrieks were something to behold! As their phase leader, I was very emotional watching each class on the screen and seeing how much they enjoyed it.”

Emma Graham, the Early Years Co-ordinator at Littlewood Campus told us: “All of the staff and children would like to thank Variety and Krazy Kev for our performance on Monday. For many of the children at Littlewood, this was their first experience of watching a magic show. This happening in their classroom meant they could engage in a new experience in a comfortable and familiar setting. They were all very interested and we had lots of joining-in and giggles. Some of our students managed to stay in-group and watch for the full 30 minutes, which is high praise indeed from our little adventurers! We shared pictures and videos of the experience with parents on Tapestry (an online learning journal). They were delighted that their children had the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with a little bit of magic this year.”

Fiona Eatwell, Linwood’s Assistant Head and Learning Leader told us how things had gone at the Linwood/Woodford Campus: “All the children and staff would like to extend their thanks to Variety for, once again, bringing magic and sparkle into their Christmas festivities. The children were immersed in the wonderful shows performed by Krazy Kev, who kept children from 18 classes fully engaged in several wonderfully entertaining shows. Despite being on Zoom live video link, the children were fully involved and interacted brilliantly with Kev! The arrival of Santa and the generous gifts provided by Variety and the charity’s sponsors served to provide a magical experience – one not to be forgotten. Variety continually supports our children so generously, providing truly memorable experiences!”

In a personal message to Frances Cornelius, the Chair of Variety Wessex, Fiona continued: “Frances: this has been the best year yet for our Christmas experiences provided by yourselves. Who would have thought it! Krazy Kev on Zoom, quarantined Santa gifts, and a socially-distanced Santa. Quite remarkable! Thank you for going above-and-beyond all expectations for our children.”

Frances Cornelius, Chair of Variety Wessex said: “I am thrilled that everything went so well and that the children enjoyed the Zoom shows so much. Thank you to all the staff at Linwood who helped make these occasions memorable for your wonderful pupils. And, of course, we couldn’t do any of this without support from many people. Thank you Lucy Walters, the 4COM Telecommunications team, and Shan and the Bournemouth Boys Club for providing such lovely gifts for the children. A huge thank you to Krazy Kev for such marvellous entertainment for these deserving youngsters, and to Father Christmas for making time to visit the children at the Linwood/Woodford campus.”

Krazy Kev said: “Although it’s a little bit different to the normal in-person performances, doing Zoom shows is a great alternative. It was lovely to see the children in their classes on the screen laughing and joining in, just as they would if I was performing in the same room!”

Beaucroft School Zoom Christmas entertainment

There was a festive party atmosphere at Beaucroft Foundation Special School in Wimborne, all thanks to Variety. On the last afternoon of term, all their classes tuned in to live-stream entertainment presented by Pete Matthews, the Crazy Juggler. The school, which educates children with learning difficulties and complex needs, including Autistic Spectrum Disorder, has facilities for pupils aged from four to nineteen. They all enjoyed the juggling routines and comedy that Pete performed.

Joe Barnett, co-head teacher of Beaucroft said: “A big thank you from everyone at Beaucroft to Frances and all at Variety The Children’s Charity for providing a Christmas treat for the last day of term. Pete the Juggler entertained the whole school via a live stream. He was, as always, very engaging and highly entertaining – thank you!”

Frances Cornelius, chair of Variety Wessex, said: “Thank you Pete for putting on such a great show. It was enjoyed by everyone at Beaucroft. This couldn’t happen without the support of some wonderful sponsors and we are all so very grateful for the funding of this show by Shan and the Bournemouth Boys Club.”

Pete Matthews, the Crazy Juggler said: “I was delighted to be able to live stream this show at this difficult and strange time. I’ve always been a great supporter of Variety The Children’s Charity and the work they do, and I know the children that benefit from their hard work love the shows we get to do for them.”

Staff from Beaucroft School Wimborne getting into the spirit of a Variety Christmas party