TODAY marks the 18th year of Dedham Christmas Market where more than 40 stalls line the High Street and luxury hampers are up for grabs from just a £1 raffle ticket.

Kim Spencer took over the running of the once Dickensian Market in 2000, when Dedham Primary School assumed responsibility of it to help raise funds.

Some of her seven children, now aged 18 to 36, were pupils at the time, strengthening her connection to it.

She has led the school’s parents’ group in planning it ever since, and the graft of executing a market with a reputation which precedes it.

She said: “It’s hard to say why it’s been so successful.

“We used to dress up in bonnets and shawls, but then when it became a Christmas market, I guess we had such a good reputation by then, people knew if they came, they would have the whole street and the square full of different things.

“We have a Santa’s Grotto and Dedham Church is also open for its Christmas tree festival.

“Our raffle is one of the highlights. Instead of having little hamper prizes, we have seven which are packed full of amazing prizes.

“There’s a children’s hamper, a luxury food hamper, which is so heavy I don’t know how I’m going to carry it, a purple and gold hamper, a baking hamper - so I’d say you have at least 30 gifts in each one.”

It is not unusual for proceeds from the raffle to hit £1,000, thanks to the school children’s imaginations as they choose a theme for each hamper.

The parents then pitch in by filling them and will lend a hand on market day itself if they are part of the committee, alongside the headteacher and a representative from each class.

Kim’s children, five of them boys, are also roped in for heavy lifting.

She said: “It’s part of their Christmas preparations as well as mine.

“More than anything, I like planning it. It’s a bit of escapism from normal life and I know what I’m doing so it’s probably easier than trying to tell somebody else what to do.”

Being retired affords Kim time to plan the market but does she see herself continuing?

“My children do. They tell me I can’t give up,”she said.

“I just feel because I’m getting older, physically it’s harder but inside, I want to keep doing it.”

Visit the Christmas Market today from 3pm until 6pm.