Black Santa back on the steps of Belfast Cathedral

Monday December 19th 2022

Former Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, left, joins Black Santa and his helpers, Bishop George Davison and Bishop David McClay.

The 2022 Black Santa Sit-out for charities got underway on the steps of St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, on Monday December 19. [Photo gallery below]

This is a fifth Christmas sit-out for the Very Rev Stephen Forde, Dean of Belfast, and the 46th year of a tradition started in December 1976 by Dean Sammy Crooks and maintained by his successors, Deans Jack Shearer, Houston McKelvey and John Mann.

Dean Crooks was dubbed Black Santa by the media because he wore a black Anglican clerical cloak to protect him from the elements, and the name has stuck for more than four decades.

The 2022 Appeal is focusing on registered charities supporting the most disadvantaged families and individuals in the community, and charities working directly with refugee communities settling in Northern Ireland.

The Cathedral has decided that this year, to increase the impact of the appeal’s support for local charities, grants will be awarded to those registered charities whose annual income was £150,000 or less in 2021.

“Our focus is to support those organisations who are working on the front line. It is for those of us who can to help those who are struggling with the cost of living,” the Dean said.

Last year, Black Santa awarded grants to 219 charities, averaging £800 per grant. “This year we want to be more focused so we can give bigger grants, particularly to charities who don’t have professional fundraisers,” Dean Forde added.

“We are being true to what I believe are the origins of Black Santa – to support small local charities, rather than big national charities, with Christian Aid the one exception.”

This will be Dean Forde’s second Sit-out this year – during Lent, he raised more than £56,000 for those whose lives had been impacted by the war in Ukraine.

For 2022, the Black Santa Appeal is once again being supported practically by the firm PwC, who have assisted in setting up a dedicated website where online donations can be made.

The first morning was a busy one for Dean Forde, with a visits from Belfast’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Christina Black, a series of interviews and photocalls, and plenty of support from current Bishops George Davison (Connor), David McClay (Down and Dromore) and former Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy.

There were plenty of well-wishers, with people walking past or pulling up in their cars and dropping money into Black Santa’s barrel.

Black Santa, assisted by the Canons of Belfast Cathedral, will be on the steps of St Anne’s Cathedral in Donegall Street every day from December 19 until Christmas Eve.

Dean Forde will share his experiences of this year’s Sit-out in his daily Black Santa Diary appearing in the Belfast Telegraph all this week.

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