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Tree Festival celebrates 20 years

This year is the 20th anniversary of one of Bedford's biggest Christmas attractions, the Christmas Tree Festival at St Paul's church, run jointly by the church and Bedford Hospital Charity & Friends.

It has become established as a firm favourite for many, who start their Christmas by visiting the historic and beautiful St Paul's Church lit by trees, decorated by local community groups, schools and firms. Jayne Beard Associates are kindly sponsoring the festival again in memory of Jayne Beard who was a former Chairman of the Bedford Hospitals Charity. This year's theme is "Itís Panto".

The festival runs this year from Wednesday 1 December to Sunday 5 December 2021 and is open Wednesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and on Sunday 12noon-4pm. Admission is £3 for adults and free for children under 16.

Choirs feature daily and this year there will be returning visits from The Bedford Rock Choir, Music for Memory, Hammers Community Choir, Sharnbrook Community Choir and others.

The annual concert will be held on Friday 3rd December at 7.30pm with the 'Minerva Piano Trio' performing pieces by Ravel, Stravinsky, Mozart & Vivaldi. Tickets are priced £17.50 and can be purchased by calling 01234 783181 or via the website www.peoplesfundraising.com/concert-tickets.

If you wish to join the list of choirs or decorate a tree, please email Margaret Oakley (Chairman) on mboakley@hotmail.co.uk

Antiques Road Trip comes to Bedford and visits St Paul's church

Don't miss a visit to St Paul's Church by Catherine Southon, antiques expert, when she meets local historian James Collett-White to discover the background to the
church's daily broadcast to the nation during the dark days of World War Il.

Episode 17 (of 25) on BBCI Tuesday 28 September 4.30 pm and thence on iPlayer

Tuesday lunchtime concerts set to return

St Paul's church, Bedford launches a new series of lunch time concerts with a piano and organ recital by Paul Edwards on Tuesday 21 September, 1.00 pm.

Paul's programme will include Bach, Haydn, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Gershwin, as well as 16th and 20th century pieces by lesser-known English composers.

The recital is free with a retiring collection (suggested £5) in aid of church funds.

Other programmes in this new free autumn lunchtime concert series will include Soprano and Tenor solo singing, recitals of Flute, Cello and Piano. Details to follow.

Bedfordshire orchestra comes to St Paul's in October

The first evening performance in St Paul's for over 18 months is scheduled to take place on Saturday October 16th, when the church will host a chamber orchestra from the Bedfordshire Orchestra Society.

The concert will be their first live performance since lockdown. The chamber orchestra will play a mixed programme showing a full range of instrumentation, with pieces to include Elgarís Shed Music, Petite Symphony by Gounod and Brahmsí Serenade No. 2.

Tickets are already on sale and can be purchased via the ticketing website Eventbrite. Further information on the concert can also be found on the Bedford Sinfonia's website.

The programme starts at 7.30pm with doors open from 6.45pm. All proceeds from ticket sales will go to support St Paulís and it's vital role in Bedford and beyond.

Solidarity for Refugee Week at St Paul's

St Paul's will be hosting a small installation of creative pieces by local schools and community groups on the theme of 'Solidarity' as part of Refugee Week, a UK-wide festival (2),14th to 19th of June. Creative pieces will also reflect the lived experience of those seeking asylum who tell their powerful stories of struggle and hope. Relevant organisations are also welcome to display information about their work.

Members of the public are invited to take a quiet and reflective walk around the church to view the installations, open 12.00-2.00 daily.

Fr. Luke Larner, assistant curate at St Paulís, said:

"St Paul's church, with its history of opening its doors to individuals from across the world from all walks of life, is ideally suited to host these displays and to be a point of reference for those seeking to be informed."

Throughout the week St Paul's will be running an online campaign including short interviews to hear more about the work many organisations are doing to support people. Videos will be available on Facebook, instagram and St Paulís YouTube channel

Organisations partnered include:

BRASS (Bedford Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support)
Yarlís Wood Befrienders
Migrants Organise
Local schools
Local art groups
Soul Food Poetry

Strict COVID precautions will be followed at St Paul's in its large and well-ventilated space.

Earlier this year, Fr. Luke took part in a campaign among other local faith and community leaders to raise questions about controversial plans to house 200 people seeking asylum on a temporary site adjacent to Yarlís Wood IRC. Concerns were raised about the suitability of the site and the potential impact on the wellbeing of the proposed occupants. The plans have now been scrapped, and the site dismantled, with questions being raised about the process and the significant expenditure on the project.

Notes:

Refugee Week is a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. Founded in 1998 and held every year around World Refugee Day on the 20 June, Refugee Week is also a growing global movement. This year's theme is ' We cannot walk alone'. Through a programme of arts, cultural, sports and educational events alongside media and creative campaigns, Refugee Week enables people from different backgrounds to connect as well as encouraging understanding of why people are displaced, and the challenges they face when seeking safety. See www.refugeeweek.org.uk.

St Paul's Church is awarded 'Major Parish Church' status

St Paul's church in the centre of Bedford is celebrating its award as a Major Parish Church and being granted membership of the Major Churches Network, in recognition of its importance to the town.

The Major Churches Network is a body set up by the Church of England which comprises 350 of the largest and most significant churches across England which are not cathedrals but fulfil many of the same functions within their communities and includes some of the best loved places of worship around the UK.

There are strict qualifying criteria to become a member such as being a building of exceptional significance (often Grade I listed), being open daily to visitors, to have a role which goes beyond a normal parish church by fulfilling an important civic and cultural role and by making an economic contribution to their local area.

St Paul's qualifies in all categories - it is the biggest religious building in the St Albans Diocese after St Albans Cathedral, the civic and county church of Bedfordshire, and it plays host to events and concerts throughout the year. For the past year the new Bedford Visitor Information Centre - which replaced the old Tourist Information when it closed - has also been based inside the main body of the church.

Canon Fr Kevin Goss, Vicar of St Paul's said: "We are delighted to have received this recognition and to have been officially designated a member of the Major Churches Network. We welcome thousands of visitors every year and would hope this affiliation will boost the church's profile further, and in doing do attract more visitors into Bedford."

St Paul's is already a member of Cathedrals Plus, a body that promotes cathedrals, abbeys, shrines and major churches which already receive large numbers of visitors. The church is well-known locally for hosting the annual Christmas Tree Festival in conjunction with Bedford Hospitals Charity, attracting around 5000 visitors over the five day event.