The Story of Christmas’s first event, at lunchtime on 19 December 1978, raised some £4,000 – about £22,000 in today’s values. During subsequent years the organisers continued to express surprise that the event had not only continued, but had raised increasingly larger sums. In 1979, £11,000 was raised. In 1980, the appeal was launched in July aiming to raise £20,000 by December. That target, however, was exceeded within a month, while the final result was over £22,000.
The event, which has always taken place at St George’s Hanover Square in the commercial heart of Mayfair, rapidly developed, moving to the evening, developing a corps of celebrated readers (leading faces from the worlds of stage of screen), introducing magnificent music, a fine military band and a nationally renowned choir. The formula was based upon the traditional service of Nine Lessons and Carols. As this proceeded, the brochures grew heavier with advertising and no longer needed to be sold! Tickets, which used to be sold, moved on to “by invitation” to the advertisers and donors.
The Story of Christmas was created by the partners of West End agents PROPIS (Julian Glasgow, John Osborne and Robert Spooner) and it was led by Robert for over 30 years. Leading figures in the property industry quickly gathered around the organisation. The Duke of Westminster became Patron and a reception after the church service emerged. The reception became the setting for an auction, further boosting funds.
The Duke’s Grosvenor Estate is still a generous supporter of SoC, as are companies which supported in the earliest days and survived the many ups and downs of the property industry in the intervening years. Despite those ups and downs, SoC’s fundraising has only occasionally marked time. Now our corporate supporters are numbered in so many scores, across property, construction, architecture, the law and finance, and so many other sectors, with the huge client base they have.
From the start we raised our funds for specific schemes in and around London, for the homeless and for disadvantaged children, an aim, like the event, we have refined over the years. Like the 1978 event, we still rely on the voluntary efforts of leaders in the property industry to raise our income from their friends, colleagues and clients, and guide our activities.