Stan’s Secret Santa

Last week Manchester Museum temporarily opened its doors, for one day only, for ‘Stan’s Secret Santa’. Led by Karen Brackenridge, our Cultural Health and Wellbeing Assistant, along with numerous colleagues and partners, the day was a chance to gather gifts and donations for distribution by our various Greater Manchester homelessness and poverty support organisation partners.

Christmas jumper pattern with a knitted red dinosaur advertising Stan's Sectret Santa gift appeal
Flier for Stan’s Secret Santa gift appeal.

This has been a difficult year for so many already, and with energy and food price increases, the preparations for Christmas present even more challenges for some. Therefore, we organised a Christmas Gift Appeal in partnership with Invisible Cities, to support people experiencing homelessness and poverty. With the wonderful Karen Brackenridge on the case, this was always going to be a collaborative effort:

Firstly, there’s “the hat” – hand crafted and made to measure by our Artist in Residence, Lucy Burscough.

Artist attempting to wear the T-rex-sized santa hat to show how large it is
Lucy Burscough with the giant santa hat (perhaps too big for a person but large enough for a T-rex)

But a giant Stanta hat is all well and good but how do you get a hat on a T-rex?

A woman stands on a cherry picker to reach the skull of a T-rex. She is carefully trying to position a huge santa hat with 2 people providing instructions from the gallery below
Abi on the cherry picker, attempting to position Stan’s hat with instructions coming from John (in the high-vis vest) and Lucy (in the santa hat!) below

Obviously, another team effort! This time, involving John Miller (Senior Museum Technician), Robert O’Connor (Museum Technician) and Abi Stevens (Preventative Conservator).

No detail was left to chance: the gallery illuminations were designed by Work Skills students from our fabulous partners, Pinc College.

  • Five coloured light boxes: red, purpose and green
  • T-rex wearing a santa hat, lit in green, blue and purple

As well as the lighting, Pinc students also painted and decorated the gift-drop boxes, made by our workshop team; adding even more sparkle and magic to the gallery.

Yellow and red wooden boxes draped with tinsel
Gift-drop boxes painted and decorated by Pinc students

So on Tuesday 7 December we opened up our Fossils Gallery from 10am to 4.30pm and invited people to drop off donations… and have the chance to take a selfie with Stan the T.rex!

Even with strong winds and heavy rain, thanks to Storm Barra, there was still a fantastic turnout.

A woman holding 2 selection boxes, standing next to a man holding a large T-rex toy
Karen with Tony (who turned up with bags of gifts, including Tina the T-rex!)

The day was a huge success and people were so generous.

Infographic showing the results of Stan's Secret Santa
Infographic with a snapshot of the generous donations received for the gift appeal

We received the following donations:

104 selection boxes, 100 copies of Anita Sethi’s book ‘ I Belong Here’, 50 books, 34 sets of art materials, 34 bags/tubes of chocolates, 33 boxes of chocolates/biscuits/cakes, 31 games, 30 packs of toiletries, 30 pairs of gloves, 30 hats, 27 colouring/sticker/puzzle books, 26 soft toys, 23 jars of hot chocolate, 17 pairs of socks, 15 toys, 12 chocolate oranges, 10 items of stationery, 6 boxes of Christmas crackers, 4 hot water bottles, 3 scarves, 3 pyjama sets, 3 backpacks, 2 DVDS, 1 polo shirt, 1 pair of slippers, and a jar of Bovril beefy drink!

  • Dinosaur toy, chocolate santas, book and other gifts, draped in tinsel
  • Toys, games, books, stickers and other gifts on a windowsill, draped in tinsel

Last Friday Invisible Cities organised a day of gift-wrapping. Again, this was a team effort, and as well as helping to wrap gifts, Pinc students also provided some of their hand-made wrapping paper too.

A table with Christmas crackers and donated gifts, wrapped in hand made paper. In the background, 2 people are wrapping up more gifts
Wrapping paper, designed and made by Pinc students

This week Invisible Cities have allocated all of the donations to the partner organisations, who will be distributing items directly in time for Christmas. Gifts are going out to the following organisations:

Barnabus Manchester, Baubles4Beds, Bee Squad, Booth Centre, Jo Spurling, Life-share, Sanctuary Supported Housing, and Wood Street Mission

Three paper signs on a wall, each with the name of a partner organisation. Below each sign is an empty gift bag: ready to be filled with donations
Invisible Cities staff setting up the gift bags ready to be filled with donations for each partner organisation

We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who braved the weather to donate gifts, to our partners Invisible Cities, to Pinc College students and staff, and to all of our museum colleagues for supporting this fantastic gift appeal. Merry Christmas!

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