Meet the Barnsbury software tycoon who gives out secret gifts every Christmas
- Credit: Archant
“Father” Christmas lives in Barnsbury - and her real name is Polly Arrowsmith. The Gazette meets Islington’s very own secret Santa, whose software firm is distributing anonymous gifts to charities on its doorstep.
A Barnsbury woman has set up the delicately named Christmas project Somebody Gives a Damn to give gifts to those less fortunate.
Polly Arrowsmith and her software business Qube have produced about 700 lovingly wrapped packages of sweets, chocolates and toiletries to distribute to a minimum of 12 charities, “for the 12 days of Christmas”.
Three of these are local: Solace Women’s Aid in Holloway, the pensioners’ Christmas day lunch at St Mary’s Church in Upper Street, and St Mungo’s homeless charity just over the border in Hackney.
Polly said: “In our small way we try to give something just so that somebody out there knows somebody else cares.”
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Polly understands from personal experience that not everyone’s Christmas is perfect, describing her own childhood as disruptive. “Christmas was always very difficult,” she said, “and there are expectations to create this perfect family situation which every year was a disaster at some level.
“We know violence happens in households and mental illness can happen to anyone at any time. People can be innocent victims of this. That’s why it’s important to me to give back at Christmas.”
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She feels Christmas is a time of year when people can feel isolated and marginalised because of their situation.
“When you watch TV,” she told the Gazette, “you see ads that give you very idealised family images – everybody’s together, one big happy family, everybody gets gifts. The reality is for so many people that’s simply not the case.”
Polly has been putting together these donations personally for years, but this is the first time she’s made the project into a company campaign so she can make it go further.
All the gifts are anonymous.
“We never mark any of it,” she said. “We don’t put any company logo on the gifts because it’s not about Qube or me. It’s about knowing somebody else cares.”
Polly has lived in Barnsbury Road for nine years, and enjoys spreading Christmas cheer in her community.
“I personally prefer to give locally,” she said, “because this is where I live and I see these people day in, day out.
“It’s lovely to think I’ve helped them.”
But she admits distribution to local charities has actually been quite difficult. “You’d think it’d be easy to give things away,” she said, “but it’s not.
“Charity staff don’t always have the time and they have strict rules on what they can accept.”
All the same, Polly is determined to keep on giving.
“We will definitely do this again next Christmas,” she said. “We can do more good as a business.”