Christmas gifts with benefits AND a National Art Pass giveaway

— by Alyson Walsh


Maker’s Atelier pattern


Most of us, including our nearest and dearest, don’t need any more stuff. This year we’ve welcomed Greta Thunberg, managed Second-Hand September and are cutting down on consumption. I’ve virtually stopped giving Christmas presents to friends; these days, I tend to just buy small gifts for their children (if this is news to anyone, I’m thinking about the planet, alright!). But it’s not all Bah-Humbug at That’s Not My Age Mansions, I love to send Christmas cards and take a small gift of food, drink, a plant or a bunch of flowers when visiting friends over the festive period. Locally purchased if possible or from the new Lidl down the road. In my latest podcast Caryn Franklin talks about how #notbuyingnew means she’s more creative with her clothes – and the same philosophy can apply to Christmas gifts. Having a Considerate Christmas means different things to different people. And of course, it does feel good to send gifts, ‘Tis the season to spread joy and goodwill after all. From supporting charitable initiatives and social enterprises, to gaining new experiences and shopping locally, here are a few suggestions of gifts with benefits:


Care about your community

The Soap Co. is a beauty brand that is committed to doing things differently. Eighty percent of its workforce are blind, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged. The company uses natural botanicals and pure essentials oils and all items are paraben and cruelty-free. I’ve sniffed a couple of the body washes and fragrances; the black poppy & wild fig, geranium & rhubarb, wild nettle & sage, are lovely. The Soap Co. is also available at John Lewis 

If you’ve listened to my Patrick Grant podcast you’ll have heard all about Community Clothing; the Blackburn-based social enterprise and design co-operative that makes good quality basics for men and women. The garments are made in the UK, sewn in Blackburn, printed in Blackpool (hooray!), woven in Leicester and knitted in Hawick.


Merchant & Mills jumpsuit


Gift a new skill

Switch off the smart phone and spend time learning a new skill. For makers, Wool and the Gang sell designed and assembled knitting and crochet kits for all levels, from simple blankets and scarves, to more advanced sweaters, gloves and cardies. The Maker’s Atelier and Merchant and Mills both sell brilliant dress-making patterns; I have my eye on the Thelma jumpsuit and the Big Easy top, does anyone have a spare sewing machine? Both brands also arrange sewing retreats and classes, check out their websites for details.

The website Obby is on a mission to get everyone to rethink learning, to step away from their screens and go and do something creative instead. Connecting users to over 2500 courses, classes and workshops in London, with everything from salsa to Spanish, pottery to piano playing. Find out more about Obby gift cards HERE. As the website says, ‘Give the gift of learning.’



Go on a culture trip (with a National Art Pass)

The Art Fund is a charity supporting UK museums and galleries and encouraging more people to see art. Call me predictable but for the third year running I’m buying Mr That’s Not My Age a National Art Pass (well, a joint pass, gift-to-self included). This brilliant pass gives free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic houses across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions. After a few culture trips, the Art Card pays for itself. AND the good news is: Art Fund has very kindly offered two passes to giveaway to TNMA readers. To win please email [email protected] with the subject line ‘Win an Art Pass’ by Tuesday 17 December; we’ll notify the winners and National Art Pass will send out to you, as soon as possible (UK only I’m afraid).


Eat, drink and be merry

Yep, your favourite tipple can help others, too. With their ‘drink beer, give water’ initiative Brewgooder Brewery donate 100% of their profits to projects bringing clean water to  African communities. And Ignition Brewery, a not-for-profit in my local South London, employs and trains people with learning disabilities. Every time you pick up a pint or choose a bottle to take home you’ll be helping the cause.

If gin is the drink of choice, award-winning Edinburgh Gin is produced and bottled in small batches in the West End of, er, Edinburgh. And the distillery tour is ranked in the top 20 visitor attractions on Trip Advisor (advance booking is essential). While sustainable label Ramsbury Estate gin is sourced in Wiltshire. Waste water is filtered through a ‘wildlife-friendly’ system and the estate’s livestock are fed on the spent wheat.

You might have already spotted these bright chocolate bars on the shelves, not only are Tony’s Choco-lonely bars delicious, but the brand is on a mission to end slavery on cocoa farms. Another fair trade favourite is Divine, who believe in the power of chocolate to improve the lives and opportunities of small-scale farmers.

Share more, waste less. If you’ve been given too many tins of Quality Street or M&S Shortbread sign up to Olio – a food waste app that helps you swap unwanted food with your neighbours.



And finally, do you know Trouva? This website is the place to find all the best, independent, bricks and mortar retailers in one place online.

For other, more traditional gifts, I’ve put together a small, Christmas edit HERE.



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