“We heard stories, we had a laugh and we had people who found companions in a season where a lot of people are lonely”
Since 2016 Bisi – an activist, actor and refugee who spent many Christmases alone – and his partner Anthony have put out a social media invitation for the lonely to come and celebrate Christmas in their own home.
Whatever your tradition may be, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy new year.
From the Museum of London
Bisi: I moved to the UK ten years ago from Nigeria. I moved in a kind of violent way – I had to run away from my country and leave everything behind. In Nigeria Christmas is always a very big gathering and a very outdoor kind of thing. We have a lot of parties and you move around. My first Christmas here, which was also my first winter, was very depressing. I had nowhere to go to, I had no friends, I had nothing to do, and that happened for a long time. So last year at Christmas we were thinking of everything going on in the world and how some people were kind of depressed, and I realised that, you know, I’ve gone through this too before. Why don’t we open up our Christmas and see if people might be out there with nowhere to go to and no-one to talk to. So we put it on social media and people got in touch with us. There was, let me see, (counting) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…
Anthony: Maybe about 9.
Bisi: They were from all over London.
Anthony: One of the guys had just moved from Australia. He saw the post, and was a friend of a friend who didn’t have any family here. There was another girl, we had no idea who she was, but her family wasn’t here either, so she came.
Bisi: There was a mother and her two children. There was a family from Nigeria.
Anthony: They couldn’t get back to Nigeria so they spent Christmas with us. A lot of people passed through.
Bisi: Our friends were there as well.
Anthony: Everyone was quite nice, they were all helping out in the kitchen. With people you don’t really know the conversation starts slow but everyone settled in after an hour and a half or so. We ate and watched movies and just enjoyed ourselves. It was the typical family-ish Christmas.
Bisi: I cooked a Nigerian meal. People brought dessert and drinks.
Anthony: We had a turkey with the trimmings and then Nigerian food all around the outside.
Bisi: We always encourage people to bring what they have, if somebody doesn’t have something that shouldn’t stop them from coming. I think for as long as we are here it’s something we’ll consider doing, because umm…
Anthony: Because why not?
Bisi: Exactly, why not!