A Christmas Market was being erected in the grounds of Birmingham Cathedral today – within yards of the city’s memorial to victims of the Birmingham pub bombings.
The shed and grotto were being installed less than 24 hours after the Remembrance service on Colmore Row commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.
Workmen moved into the grounds of St Philip’s at breakneck speed to begin building the market.
Vast areas were covered with membrane and flooring to protect the lawns, many of areas of which still haven’t recovered from this summer’s heatwave.
Chalets from Rutland Sheds were constructed on top while electricians began laying cables for services and lighting.
The square, which was fully restored at the turn of the century, was populated with large vans on the pathways.
As you can see on our video above, one vehicle was driven near to a gravestone on the newly-covered lawn next to St Philip’s Place.
Birmingham Cathedral’s chief executive Anna Pitt said: “I am delighted that the Christmas Market adds an additional dimension to the cathedral’s celebration of Advent and Christmas this year.
“Building on the success of 2017’s #Wrapupbrum campaign and the ‘Let’s Feed Brum’ Dinner, the market this year offers us an opportunity to engage with many more of our neighbours, as well as reaching out to support charities and organisations in our local community.
“Cathedral Square is an iconic, exceptional and well-loved space in the heart of our city, and I am thrilled with the opportunity to share the benefits of that space with our neighbours.”
One chalet is being let free of charge to various groups including Cats Protection, The Royal British Legion, Carrs Lane Fair Trade, Red Box Project, Love Brum, WWF, St Basils, Community Transport, Remembering Srebrenica and more.
The market will open at the same time as the German Market in nearby Victoria Square and New Street.
What is the Birmingham Pub Bombings memorial?
Twenty one people were killed on the night of November 21, 1974 and every year the campaign group @Justiceforthe21 holds a service and vigil next to the Birmingham Pub Bombings memorial.
But this year the group had already moved its main service to outside New Street Station, where a new memorial – a grove of three sculptured metal trees by local artist Anuradha Patel – will be unveiled at 8.17pm on the anniversary date at an event that will be invitation only for health and safety reasons.
A smaller service will be held at 9am on November 21 at the Cathedral memorial before the Christmas market opens at 10am.
Julie Hambleton, who lost her sister Maxine in the Pub Bombings, said she wished Birmingham Cathedral well with its market.
“The staff have always been kind and courteous and very spiritual in their support,” she said.
“If we were holding our service at the memorial we might have had something to say.
“Next year we would hope they would leave a wider space for people who want to pay their respects.”
An inquest in to the deaths of the pub bomb victims is set to be held between February and April next year.
What is the idea behind the Christmas Market at the Cathedral?
It is being managed by Top Dog Events and the city council will be paid to ensure the grounds are kept free of litter.
Alcohol will be on sale and there will be an area of public toilets.
The current temporary fencing along St Philip's Place will be removed on Thursday.
Security will patrol the area overnight and the chalets will be locked.
The new market has been inspired by a similar long running event at Winchester Cathedral.
A spokesman for the cathedral said: “We wanted to bring Christmas outside this year and deliberately held off construction work until after Remembrance yesterday.
“Charities will benefit by having the chalets outside.
“It’s about testing the water to see if we can bring Christmas outside – families seem to want somewhere where they can take their children.
“The burial areas were taken into account. First and foremost we are a place of worship and burial ground.
“We hope it’s a good thing for the city and we are trying to offer something different to the Frankfurt market.”
On Saturday, December 22, 300 homeless people will be welcomed with the offer of a free meal, soft drink and gift.
What will be there?
As well as a grotto where families can book in to visit Father Christmas.
The market will include an array of locally-sourced crafts, gifts, food and drink.
Other events and services will be held inside the cathedral itself including worship, music, film and charity events to celebrate Advent and Christmas.
The cathedral’s coat donation appeal #WrapUpBrum will also be stepped up this winter.
A donation chalet will be situated within the Christmas Market where members of the public can donate unwanted coats and warm jackets plus hats, coats and scarves for the homeless community and those in need.
The cathedral team will then place the donated items on a rail outside the cathedral for those who need one.
Birmingham Cathedral has also pledged to continue to work with local charities including St Basils, Let’s Feed Brum, The Salvation Army and SIFA Fireside to ensure the items reach the most vulnerable.
How many people are buried at the site?
According to Birmingham Cathedral’s own website, there are ‘thought to be around 60,000 burials in the churchyard.
‘In 1858 the burial ground was closed to further burials, conditions were very poor and potentially a threat to public health “offensive to the surrounding neighbourhood, especially in the summer months’.
There are about 100 monuments left visible.
Last month it was revealed that HS2 was to exhume thousands of Brummies after launching Europe’s biggest archaeological dig in an area where thousands of people who built the city during the Industrial Revolution were buried.
When will the market open?
The market will be be officially opened by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street at 4pm on Thursday, November 15 and blessed by the Dean of Birmingham, the Very Rev Matt Thompson.
At 6pm, the Christmas lights will be switched on by 12-year-old Louis Johnson, Birmingham Children Hospital’s Fundraiser of the Year.
He is best friends with five-year-old Ben Collins, who has terminal bone cancer.
The market will run daily until Saturday, December 22.
It will be open from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 9pm and from 1pm to 9pm on Sundays.
The Birmingham German Christmas Market will also open on Thursday, November 15.
Deputy Lord Mayor, Cllr John Lines, will officially open the market at 5.30pm.
Birmingham's Christmas lights will also be switched on this Thursday.