Bolton-born TV presenter Paddy McGuinness came home to celebrate Christmas with one of the town's 'biggest families'.

Homeless Aid UK hosted one of its biggest Christmas party events to date, enlisting the help of volunteers, a magician, musicians, a DJ, and a special guest, Top Gear's Paddy.  

With singing, dancing, a three-course meal and plenty of Christmas joy, the fabulous night at All Souls also highlighted a bittersweet reality as the number of service users continues to grow.  

Bolton comedian, Paddy signed autographs and posed for selfies.

He said: “I'm just here to say hello, I’m minimal, these are the guys are the ones that do it 24/7 and the only thing I can offer here is selfies.”  

After attending last year's event, the comedian was eager to come again but said he felt the evening was “tinged with sadness”.  

He said: “I've known Billa, the Co-Founder of Homeless Aid since I was a kid, he lived on the next street to me. 

The Bolton News: Paddy McGuinness and Billa AhmedPaddy McGuinness and Billa Ahmed (Image: Newsquest)

“I was doing Top Gear in Bolton a few years ago when I bumped into him, he told me what he was doing and to come down, so I did.  

“I remember the length of the queue was shocking and now that I have come back it’s even busier. 

“Weirdly, it’s a lovely atmosphere in here but tinged with sadness because you don’t want it to be full, but it is.  

“It is a lovely evening, but I wish we didn’t have to do it.”  

Jesus, a service user, regularly goes to Homeless Aid and their annual Christmas parties. He said although the evening is nice, it doesn't change much for him. 

The Bolton News: Jesus, service user from Homeless Aid UK, Bolton,Jesus, service user from Homeless Aid UK, Bolton, (Image: Newsquest)

He said: “I'm thinking about how cold it is. 

“Yes, it is nice in here but not when you know you have to go back to a flat with no heating or power.  

“I woke up crying this morning because I was so cold. It took about an hour to try and get my feet going, not even to get them warm but just to get them moving.  

The Bolton News: Homeless Aid Uk Christmas party Homeless Aid Uk Christmas party (Image: Newsquest)

“I don’t have any access to power, so I never know what time it is, it turned out that by the time my feet were able to move, it was too late to go anywhere for food.” 

The annual event aims to provide homeless people or those facing poverty a chance to come together for a Christmas party, meal and dance.  

The Bolton News: Taylor Robinson Homeless Aid volunteerTaylor Robinson Homeless Aid volunteer (Image: Newsquest)

Taylor Robinson has been working as a Homeless Aid volunteer for over five years and described the night as their annual ‘family Christmas’ get-together.  

She said: “That is how we look at it, as our family Christmas meal.  

“For service users Christmas is difficult and many are in hostels with no decorations, nothing to open and no one to sit with on Christmas day. 

The Bolton News: Magic Martin performing at the Christmas party Magic Martin performing at the Christmas party (Image: Newsquest)

“Some of them won't even get a hot meal.  

“That is why I feel so incredibly lucky to be a part of this, not just at Christmas but day in and day out all year round.”  

The church quickly filled up, not just with people but the sounds of laughter, music and later, a very strong Bolton accent. 

The Bolton News: Bolton Comedian, Paddy McGuinness, with Magician, Martin Bolton Comedian, Paddy McGuinness, with Magician, Martin (Image: Newsquest)

As service users and volunteers alike made use of the selfie opportunities, Shane Bickerstaffe, 42, opted for a much more old-fashioned way of commemorating the night.  

He said: “I'm enjoying it, it’s a really good time and I've even got Paddy's autograph!  

The Bolton News: Shane Bickerstaffe, 42, Bolton Shane Bickerstaffe, 42, Bolton (Image: Newsquest)

“There is lots of Christmas spirit, I use to go to the one in the town centre but this one is just amazing.  

The Bolton News: Shane Bickerstaffe's autograph from Paddy Shane Bickerstaffe's autograph from Paddy (Image: Newsquest)

“At the end of the day though, it doesn’t matter where you go it’s about the people.” 

Billa Ahmed thanked everyone for coming but added that there are many who didn't due to social anxiety, mental health problems or other factors. 

He also highlighted the difficulties of working with Homeless Aid, knowing at least two people leaving the party had to go and sleep rough at the train station.  

He added that it is hard but they won't stop trying to help those in need because "if we don't, who will?"

The Bolton News: Some of the gifts given to service users at the party Some of the gifts given to service users at the party (Image: Newsquest)

He said: “We’ve got about 80 to 90 gifts here.

“The beautiful people of Bolton have come together to donate and wrap these for our homeless friends in need.  

“Last year people told us this was the first gift they had received in over 10 years.  

“Many have no family or grew up in the care system so we are showing that we are here, we care, and we are family.”  

The Bolton News:  Paddy McGuinness handing out raffle prizes Paddy McGuinness handing out raffle prizes (Image: Newsquest)

Having helped thousands of homeless people, Billa’s incredible work has been echoed through every individual story of struggle and poverty that comes through the doors of Homeless Aid.  

Kerry Mulligan, 29, says she became homeless between the first and second lockdown after struggling for money.

She was sleeping rough for over 10 months until she found help.  

The Bolton News: Kerry Mulligan, 29, Bolton Kerry Mulligan, 29, Bolton (Image: Newsquest)

She said: “I came across Homeless Aid through a friend, we didn’t know where or who they were, but they told me the opening days and helped me and to sort accommodation and feed us the best they could.  

“I'm glad someone pointed them out. Finding them made me progress in life.”  

After 10 months of being homeless, Kerry and her partner were given accommodation, unfortunately, it wasn’t long until things began falling apart.  

The Bolton News: Service users at the party Service users at the party (Image: Newsquest)

She said: “Our four-year-old German Shepard was unwell, we didn’t know what was wrong with him, we went to the vets and that was the same day he was put down which has been hard for us. 

“The place we were staying also began falling apart. The stairs and the kitchen began falling in and we were worrying until someone from the outreach programme said they could help us.  

“Now we have a much more suitable place to stay, somewhere I am proud to say is my home.”  

The Bolton News: Homeless Aid volunteers Homeless Aid volunteers (Image: Newsquest)

Although she now has a roof over her head, Kerry says she will never forget what she went through. 

She said: “At least we're no longer outside in the cold and freezing but I feel for those who are.  

“I know what it's like, I know how they are feeling, I've been through it and I hope someone can help them the way we have been helped, especially this time of year...I really do hope.” 


The Bolton News: The Grinch shows up to the Christmas party The Grinch shows up to the Christmas party (Image: Newsquest)

In light of the evening, Billa said: “I want to thank All Souls Church who allows us to use their space, Atlantic Travel to bring the homeless here, the musicians, the magician and all those who helped in donating food and presents.  

"Also we want to remember Phill was a Dj at our parties and a volunteer who sadly passed away and Billy who use to be homeless and also passed away.

“The whole community has come together it's amazing but most importantly we want the homeless to know we are there for them.  

“Poverty and homelessness aren't just in winter, it is all year round problem.  

“If you’re a family and struggling call us on 08001244641, we can provide food hampers and if you are homeless call us or visit us,  go through council and we will do all we can for you.”