Care leavers, nursery children, singing choir and youth theatre cast among stars of Christmas concert

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A young rapper and a teenage jazz singer who had their lives turned around by music after spending time in care will be among the stars of a festive concert set to launch the Christmas shopping season at Stretford Mall.

Rapper Demi Lang, 15, and jazz singer Liam Mercer, 17, will be the final acts at the free live afternoon showcase of local talent, on Saturday [Nov 30], as part of the shopping centre’s weekend-long ‘Making of Christmas’ event.

Two days of fantastic festive activities and entertainment will also see part of Stretford Mall turned into a pop-up cinema, showing two free screenings of classic Christmas film Elf, on Sunday [Dec 1] at 10.30am and 1pm.

There will also be an outdoor Christmas market featuring a host of local craft makers, from 3pm-9pm on Saturday, and 10am until 4pm on Sunday. Shoppers will be able to pre-order free range Christmas turkeys and other festive food products to arrive on December 21st.

Stretford Mall’s retailers have joined in too, with festive promotions throughout the weekend by retailers including Stretford Foodhall, Uplift café and Longford Tap bar, which all opened at Stretford Mall his year.

Saturday’s community concert from 4pm-6pm on the market plaza outside the mall’s new main entrance will also feature a sneak preview by the cast of Stretford Children’s Theatre of theirs upcoming musical Seussical Junior, based on the Dr Zeus books.

The entertainment will start at 4pm with a rendition of Jingle Bells by children from the Fleximinder nursery and after school club based at Stretford Mall, followed by performances by children from St Matthew’s primary school, and a choir from the Delamere School who will perform in sign language. The line up will be followed by local DJ, Dr Sid who will be playing an all vinyl set of jazz, funk and rare groove in the market area from 6pm-9pm.

The final live acts from 5.30pm will be care leavers who have all been supported by local youth and community arts charity Gorse Hill Studios, which helps young people develop life skills through creativity.

Demi, from Old Trafford, will be performing an original Christmas rap she has written for the first time in public. Jazz singer Liam from Stretford will be crooning his favourite seasonal song ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’, in the style of his hero Frank Sinatra.

Demi who spent several months in care after repeatedly going missing, is now living back home with her mum. Looking forward to the Stretford Mall concert she said: “I’ll be doing my own rap, it’s the first time I’ve performed it in public, it hasn’t got a name yet it’s just called a Christmas rap.

“It’s about different people’s perspectives on Christmas, like knowing people you have lost are still with you, and even if there might be some arguments, it’s all about family and being together.”

Demi said: “I have always liked music and I used to write my own lyrics and beats in my head. I started going to Gorse Hill and they asked if I would rap on a song, and that’s how I got into rapping.

“I really enjoy it. It’s helped me to focus on my music rather than going missing and misbehaving. It’s a way to get your own perspective out. I write about things other people can relate to. It’s literally given me a voice.”

Fellow Gorse Hill Studios member Liam, who is has been in care for five years, said: “Singing has given me confidence, and a glimmer of hope, as a person who loves music. I love Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong, I think they are amazing, so I like singing in that old-time jazz style and people seem to like it.

“Being in care, a lot of people don’t understand what you are going through, they can sympathise but they can’t empathise. Gorse Hill has helped me with my performance and how I can use singing to tell a story.

“It means a lot to me to be able to perform at an event like this. I love Christmas so to be part of something like this is amazing. It’s a great buzz.”

The weekend’s activities are being supported by Stretford Mall’s new owners, Bruntwood Works and Trafford Council.

Gareth Wilkins, centre manager at Stretford Mall said: “We are really looking forward to the Making of Christmas festivities throughout the weekend following Black Friday, when the Christmas shopping season properly gets underway.

“We are delighted to be able to bring so many different elements of the Stretford community together for two days of events celebrating some fantastic local talent from our young people as well as excellent local produce in the market.

“This is about the making of Christmas as a retail centre at the heart of our community, and it is wonderful to be able to showcase fantastic projects such as Gorse Hill Studios and Stretford Youth Theatre who both do incredible work to improve young lives in our local area.

“Our retailers are also getting in the festive spirit with their window displays and many of them will be offering unique Christmas promotions. It’s bound to be a great atmosphere particularly in some of our newer venues such as Stretford Foodhall, Head bar, the Longford Tap and Uplift café.

Event organiser Heather Garlick and Annika Ede who run the market at Stretford Mall, and Fleximinder founder Haylea Osborne, have joined forces to organise the weekend which will include some free childrens’ activity workshops on Sunday.

Haylea said: “We are wanted to be able to celebrate local talent and it’s wonderful that so many performers from so many groups are able to take part. We’re really looking forward to a fantastic weekend of fun for all the family.”

Heather said: “Having the performances running alongside the market will make for a great atmosphere.

“We’ve got 16 market stall holders who are all local, selling everything from hand blown glass ware, to ceramics, jams, jewellery and records.

“There’s also a stall doing rum cocktails, and others doing face painting, burgers, sausages, curry and samosas, so hopefully something for everyone.

“We’d love for the whole community to come along and support the Stretford economy by shopping for Christmas gifts here locally.”

Ali Dunican of Stretford Children’s Theatre said Seussical Junior will be performed in full at Stretford Public Hall on December 13 & 14, she said: “The cast involves about 40 children aged between 7 and 16 who have all been rehearsing for months, so we’re very excited to be able to give a sneak preview at the Stretford Mall event.

“We’ll be performing a couple of numbers and we think people will be impressed we’ve got some fabulous young actors and singers, and some colourful costumes too.”

Other activities throughout the weekend at Stretford Mall will include a free forest school craft making under the mall’s Christmas tree, and an Advent trail of elves for children to spot among retailer’s festive shop window displays.

There will be a Wishing Tree where shoppers of all ages can tie their wish for Christmas, and a charity collection box with all donations going to Stretford Foodbank, which runs collections every Saturday at the mall from 10am-2pm.

There will also be a stall in the Christmas market taking bookings for an Elf Towers experience starting on December 4 on the 4th floor of Arndale House, next to the Mall. Here children will be trained as ‘elf apprentices’ learning how to make Christmas decorations using a traditional tools, helping wrap gifts and load Santa’s sleigh ready for Christmas.

Suitable for children aged up to ten years old, The Elf Towers experience lasts around an hour and is priced at £12 per child. Youngsters will be able to take home a decoration they have made. There will also be a pop-up café with a fantastic panoramic view of south Manchester, where families can buy refreshments.

Shops at Stretford mall will be open as usual from 9am until 6pm on Saturday while the Christmas market will run 3pm until 9pm, and on Sunday shops will open as usual from 10am until 4pm, with the market also open from 10am until 4pm.

For more information about the Making of Christmas events and shopping at Stretford Mall follow @StretfordMall or @stretfordprecinctmarket on Facebook and Twitter.

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