Glad Tidings

Words by Alex Rayner

30 June 2020


Which present does Joanna Lumley look back on most fondly this Christmas? A simple copy of Daphne du Maurier’s classic English novel Rebecca, which she can remember receiving and devouring, a few winters ago.

“I adore books,” she said, sitting in the pews at St James's Church, Piccadilly, as she waited for festivities to begin at The Fayre of St James’s. “There’s something wonderful about losing yourself in a novel, when it’s cold outside.”

However, the actress also acknowledged, in the moments prior to her public reading that evening, that the gift offered by those attending Quintessentially Foundation’s annual charity event is the most generous. “I love The Felix Project,” she said. “It’s everything I love the most, which is: looking after people, and not wasting food. We waste so much food, so this charity’s initiative is brilliant.”

The recording artist James Blunt echoed Lumley’s sentiments. He can remember receiving a skateboard for Christmas when he was four years old. “I’m not sure I could use it, but I certainly sat on it”, says Blunt, who was equally proud to support such a heartfelt cause.

The Felix Project is a London-based surplus food redistribution charity, founded by Justin Byam Shaw in 2016, which, with the help of the Fayre’s supporters, provides around 3 million meals each year, reducing food poverty and food waste in the British capital. In London alone, 70,000 children go to school hungry every day. Every week, the volunteer-led Project collects 2 tonnes of surplus food from supermarkets, wholesalers and other food suppliers to deliver to charities and kitchens, as well as to schools in London’s poorest neighbourhoods.

It is just one of the charities Quintessentially Foundation has supported this year. Back in May, the Foundation’s annual Poker Night at The Ned brought in over £135,000 for the Rugby Portobello Trust; in July the Foundation’s anniversary bike ride - this time from

Innsbruck to Ljubljana, in partnership with Rapha Travel - raised more than £400,000, again in aid of The Felix Project; and in September, Jonathan and David Dimbleby helped raise funds through Quintessentially Foundation’s annual World's Greatest Quiz Night, alongside hosts Jo Brand and Claudia Winkleman, and guest contestants, Ben Elliot, Zac and Alice Goldsmith, in aid of Dimbleby Cancer Care.

The Foundation’s year was rounded off at the annual Fayre of St James’s, where Joanna Lumley and James Blunt were joined by the film star Tom Hardy, the singers Alfie Boe and Carly Paoli, and the actor Daniel Mays, among others, for an evening of Christmas readings, songs and festive fundraising. Ms Lumley read the choral anthem, Bethlehem Down; Quintessentially’s co-founder Ben Elliot described his experiences volunteering for The Felix Project; James Blunt performed his songs I Really Want You and Goodbye My Lover; Carly Paoli sang Dvořák’s Song To The Moon, as well as a Christmas medley; Tom Hardy read Christmas Truce by Aaron Shepard; Daniel Mays chose a poem by William Blake, and Alfie Boe gave a rousing rendition of Wizzard’s 1973 glam-rock hit, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day. The congregation, who went on to enjoy drinks and canapés at Quaglino's, had certainly enjoyed an early dose of festive spirit. “It was magic,” said Joanna Lumley, “and the best way to start Christmas.”

However, London’s less fortunate inhabitants benefitted also, as the night raised more than £300,000 for The Felix Project. Yet the work doesn’t stop there, and the Foundation’s commitment to The Felix Project remains as focused as ever, with the charity looking to provide an extra 1 million meals in 2019. From 26th June to 1st July 2019, Quintessentially Foundation’s 12th edition of the Bike Ride will cover some 500 km between the Croatian capital Zagreb and the country’s second-largest city, Split, with the aim of raising £400,000 for The Felix Project.

If you would like to support The Felix Project by taking up your place on the Bike Ride 2019, please contact[email protected] and note that places are limited. To donate or get involved in Quintessentially Foundation’s other fundraising activities throughout the coming year, please [email protected].

More to explore


Avedon: Glamorous show review

Our art correspondent reviews Hamiltons Gallery’s new show featuring works by photographer Richard Avedon ahead of its opening next week.

Read more

What’s on this spring in London?

Our highlights of this season’s cultural calendar, covering theatre, opera, art and more.

Read more

Autumn’s cultural happenings

Discover the top cultural events happening in the capital this season.

Read more


Stay in the know with our monthly newsletter – a complimentary edit of everything new and noteworthy in the luxury world.

By signing up to the newsletter you confirm you have read & agree to the Privacy Policy.

Contact us