Christmas Day at Jacksons Lane: Final push for donations and drivers ahead of Highgate festive lunch for the lonely

Jacksons Lane on Christmas Day 2018. Picture: JLAC

Jacksons Lane on Christmas Day 2018. Picture: JLAC - Credit: Archant

For four decades, on Christmas Day the Jacksons Lane Arts Centre in Highgate has opened its doors to the vulnerable and lonely for a slap-up festive meal, and 2019 is no exception.

Jacksons Lane on Christmas Day 2018. Picture: JLAC

Jacksons Lane on Christmas Day 2018. Picture: JLAC - Credit: Archant

But this year is the first time couple Jan and Paul Booker won't be running the popular event. The pair have retired from the job, and with the run-up to December 25 in full swing, Jennifer Oliver is relishing the pressure of putting together three courses for 82 guests.

Jennifer, who began working on the project in August and is employed by JLAC, told this newspaper donations had been flying through the doors, but every little would help as she approached what "could be an overwhelming day". She told this newspaper: "I think it's going to be a really magical day. It's the enjoyment and what it means to the public and the volunteers - it's feels like it could be overwhelming. It needs to run like clockwork."

JLAC have been fundraising for this year's event for some time, but Jennifer emphasised that every little helps in the run-up to December 25. She said: "The whole event is so much on the day. So much needs to be done last minute."

Jennifer said drivers in particular were in demand - and anyone able to help collect guests should get in touch. Every guest gets picked up on Christmas morning by a volunteer, and she said co-ordinating this - and of course the cooking - was likely to be challenging.

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She added: "At the moment it's getting all of the food in, all the timing sorted. It's going to be a complicated 'pass' system. Serving a three-course meal to this many people is an enormous task!"

Attendees are referred to JLAC by government and health agencies and local charities.

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Jennifer told the Ham&High why she thought the festive calendar staple was such an important one.

Speaking of the importance of reaching out to the lonely, she said: "It's something I've been conscious of, it's all this you read about older people being lonely and on their own. This event makes a difference."

To donate to the JLAC Christmas appeal, see and to volunteer as a driver, contact Jennifer Oliver on

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