IT WAS champagne and smiles for the 'exceptional' winners of Bicester Village's Make A Difference funding scheme as the designer outlet pulled out all the stops to celebrate.

A host of locals from charities and community groups across Bicester were treated to a VIP champagne reception to formally award the various local causes with a cash boost from the Village.

The designer outlet in Pingle Drive planned to dish out £22,000 as part of the scheme – £1,000 for every year it has been open.

However, after an avalanche of applications, managers added an extra £10,000 to the kitty.

One of those celebrating at the champagne reception last Thursday was Kizzy Burt, founder and head coach at Bicester Elite Cheer United cheerleading troupe, which won £4,000.

She said: "We were really, really pleased when we found out as we don't tend to get things like this.

"It makes a massive difference to us: a lot of the time I am dipping into my own pocket for things and leaving me short but I care about the cheerleaders.

"To be given this funding is a huge relief."

Ms Burt said the grant would go towards new equipment and coaching courses for younger members to become qualified leaders.

She added: "It is really good of Bicester Village to reach out to the community and help us because they are our neighbours.

"But also now they have heard of all of us and what we are all doing for the town to give something back."

Another winner was the Bicester Museum and Heritage Trust which is currently looking to set up a new base in the old St Edburg's School building.

Brian Davies, from the trust, said: "We were awarded about £1,850 to provide a laptop, projector and screen to allow us to make presentations.

"It is really useful for us as it is a substantial amount which will help us with our plans to set up a museum site."

Mr Davies said the trust is also currently looking to enlist more volunteers to help with the project.

Celebrating the cash boost alongside their own anniversary was Bicester Concert Band which recently welcomed a new conductor.

The musicians are now hoping to bring in more members and, with the £1,000 donation from Bicester Village, hope to promote the group much more.

Chairwoman Rosalind Mason said: "We are extremely lucky to have secured the grant.

"Bicester Village opened in 1995, the year that Bicester Concert Band was established, so we are both more than 22 years old."

Bicester Village has now been sponsoring schools, charities and sports teams as part of its annual community support programme for two decades.

It introduced the Make a Difference fund, targetting 'groups promoting togetherness, youth and health' in celebration of its 22-year anniversary and the opening of a major expansion last October.

Spokeswoman Miranda Markham added: "It was a very happy celebration with a room full of smiling faces.

"The charities were all so deserving, it has been a difficult process to come to a final decision when all of them are doing such exceptional work.

"We hope that the new funding will help all of them to thrive and look forward to working with them all and watching their progress throughout the year."