Hull looks forward to camels in street nativity

14 December 2012

THE shepherds will be played by members of the boxing academy, the Angel Gabriel by an opera star, and Herod by the deputy churchwarden. Joseph last starred opposite Sir Patrick Stewart in The Merchant of Venice, and the camels are travelling not from the East, but up the M18 from the Peak District.

When the Assistant Curate of Holy Trinity, Hull, the Revd Matt Woodcock, had the "crazy idea" of staging a live nativity, complete with camels, in September ( News, 7 September), he had little idea of what he had spawned. "I've created a monster, to be honest," he said on Tueday. "It's got completely out of control . . . in a good way."

Now that Hull City Council is fully behind the production (and is taking care of the health-and-safety requirements of bringing three camels into the city centre), Mr Woodcock is expecting thousands of people to watch Mary and Joseph travel from Nazareth, staged outside the City Hall, to Bethlehem, sited at Holy Trinity, on 22 December.

"I will be interviewing them, as a reporter for the Bethlehem News, and speaking to local people," he explained. "It will be like a walk of witness at Easter."

The couple will be played by Daniel Morgan, a former Royal Shakespeare Company actor who has recently started attending Holy Trinity, and Rosie Willis, a student. After being turned away by the landlords of pubs along the route, they will be offered shelter at a stable constructed by a local firm at the Kingston pub, opposite the church.

A second couple will play the parts after the birth of Jesus. Gareth Yardley and Lyndsey Holmes are the parents of the production's youngest star, Sidney Yardley, who is just a few weeks' old, and will play Jesus. He will be baptised by Mr Woodcock in January.

Mr Woodcock - who has become known as "the camel man of Hull" - is a believer in "doing things differently". "As soon as you take the story outside church, people are engaging with it like never before," he said. "Hull has really been struggling jobs-wise, and this has become something that people are really looking forward to."

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