A child greets Stormzy in his signature black Santa hat Image:Eliza Pitkin/ The Big Issue
As snow lay all around and the stars twinkled above, the children of Croydon waited eagerly for the big man in a black hat to make their Christmas wishes come true.
With energy prices and inflation showing no signs of dropping, many children across Britain will be seeing fewer presents under the tree this year. Almost 18,000 children grow up in poverty in Croydon, Stormzy’s home town, and it’ll be a tough holiday season for a lot of families in the south London borough.
But for one night, Christmas joy is the order of the day. On Friday, Stormzy’s Merky Christmas got underway at Fairfield Hall, complete with #Merky wrapped presents under the tree.
“Today and tonight, this is all about joy,” Stormzy told the crowd. “When people ask me why we wanted to do this, we just wanted to have a joyful day where people can make memories.
“There’s a lot of young children here, lots of kids, and you guys will hopefully grow up with beautiful memories of this place. So just have fun!”
With unlimited burgers and chips, a ton of seriously impressive free gifts, this was a no-expense-spared extravaganza to make a lucky handful of Croydon’s kids feel like superstars.
Organised by Stormzy’s own charity, the #Merky Foundation, this party is the rapper’s Christmas gift to the community he grew up in. Following the success of last year’s inaugural event, this year Stormzy put on a night of gospel music followed by Friday’s party. Tickets were only available by ballot to children living locally to the venue.
Because we’ve been very good this year, The Big Issue was invited back to celebrate Christmas with Stormzy, his very special guests, and some delighted children full to the brim with hot chocolate and festive joy.
Here’s our best bits from the ultimate (kids’) party of the year:
1. Stormzy, TV presenter Zeze Millz and rapper Michael Dapaah played the Big Merky Quiz
Because what’s a Christmas party without a festive quiz? Chaired by comedian Eddie Kadi, each celebrity was paired with a child from the audience to first tackle some festive anagrams.
Next up it was the sports round, knocking Zeze Millz out of the game. Name That Song/ Movie had the audience leaping out their seats screaming the answers to help Stormzy and his team mate scoop the prize.
2. Last year’s talent show winner LMR returned for a show-stopping performance
Stealing the hearts of the crowd with some seriously talented rapping, last year LMR chose the top prize of a recording studio session to follow his ambitions. And it’s paid off. LMR has had his track played on BBC1 Extra, and teased the audience of an exciting upcoming project.
“That’s the kind of talent we have here in Croydon!” comedian Judi Love proudly told the crowd.
3. This year’s talent show crown went to an up-and-coming comedian
Bravely taking to the stage as a solo act (with a little encouragement) 9-year-old Ocean Reed’s jokes were a standout in the talent show that also saw a girl-band and future rap stars perform.
Surely the joke that clinched it was “What’s a cat’s favourite Starbucks?” With the audience in giggles at the punchline… “A cat-uccino!”
The up-and-coming stand-up won a Nintendo Switch and Croydon’s most coveted crown – until next year.
4. There was a free gift shop with shoes, clothes, and gaming goodies
Brothers Sidney Smith, 7, and Sonny, 6, were hoping to get some Apple Airpods and a PS4 game, with mum crossing her fingers for a scented candle.
A list on the wall also offered Clarks kids’ shoes, an Amazon Echo Dot and JD Sports clothing, with one gift per person. Sonny even knew the words to Stormzy’s infamous track Big For Your Boots.
5. Father Christmas was on hand to hear what good children want in their stockings
The man himself travelled down from the snowy north pole to snowy Croydon, to meet some very excited children.
Five-year-old Remiya Gondoh got to hold Santa’s magic clock and asked Santa for big presents. On whether she was more excited to see Stormzy or go on the bouncy castle, she said “bouncy castle first, then Stormzy!”
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