There’s room at a Norfolk inn for the Diggers to delve into Christmas traditions

19:15 11 December 2012

Dawn Finnerty and Gareth Calway rehearse for their alternative take on Christmas at the Gin Trap, in Ringstead. Picture: Ian Burt

Dawn Finnerty and Gareth Calway rehearse for their alternative take on Christmas at the Gin Trap, in Ringstead. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2012

Why do we deck the halls with boughs of holly, or have presents around the tree? And who said doing the shopping had to be so stressful?

Those and many other questions about our festive traditions will be unravelled in a nativity play for grown-ups, taking place appropriately-enough in a humble stable next to an inn.

Christmas-like traditions date back 5,000 years or more, spanning the centuries from tree-worshipping Pagan times to modern-day late night shopping.

“Using mulled wine, mince pies and other trappings we work out where Christmas came from, what’s it all about, all this stress,” said Holt-based actress Dawn Finnerty, whose credits include Dalziel & Pascoe and Casualty.

“It’s done in a fun way, we talk about turkey, how women deal with all the shopping, gifts, cooking and putting up the tree.”

As well as directing the show, called Knowall and Mother Christmas Do Some Digging Around The Roots of Christmas, Miss Finnerty is part of the six-strong cast, which is drawn from The Diggers – a group of actors, artists and musicians based around Sedgeford, on the Norfolk coast.

Another of their number is retired Smithdon High School teacher-turned author Gareth Calway, who chose the location at the Gin Trap Inn, at the foot of the downs in Ringstead.

Mr Calway, who plays the part of Knowall in the hour-long show he also co-wrote, said: “It will look absolutely gorgeous, perhaps even a bit spooky.

“We’re going to have the wise men, all the solstice traditions, the mistletoe, the holly, and the fir tree.

“The Christmas we have today goes back to 4000BC, we just don’t realise it. Mistletoe, for example, was a druid symbol for eternity.”

Christmas trees can be traced back to pagan times, when people worshipped trees, while Father Christmas could well have his origins in earlier saints who probably wore green.

Santa stayed green for centuries, with some blaming an advertising campaign for a well-known soft drinks company for turning him red, although others argue Santa’s suit changed colour before the marketing men discovered him.

Miss Finnerty and Mr Calway are joined by Trevor Ashwin, Imogen Ashwin and Mark Fawcett for a night of poetry, art, music and performance at the Gin Trap on December 21 (7pm).

There will be no stage as such and shows are standings owing to the lack of seating, with performers moving among the audience, who will be admitted to see the show in relays depending on how many turn up.

As well as the show itself, Mr Calway and Mr Fawcett have written a new carol called The Only Gift, which will be on sale on the night with a souvenir solstice card.

They describe it as “an exquisite modern fairy tale of King’s Lynn” – as opposed, presumably, to the much-loved Fairytale of New York, which will soon be blaring out from shopping arcades and topping local radio playlists across the land.

Tickets priced £7.50 – which include mulled wine and mince pies – can be booked by calling 01485 571828.


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