Black Santa Sit-out begins on Thursday

Tuesday December 12th 2023

The Very Rev Stephen Forde, Dean of Belfast, is preparing for his sixth Black Santa Sit-out which begins at St Anne’s Cathedral on December 14.

The 2023 Black Santa Sit-out for charities gets underway on the steps of St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, on Thursday December 14.

This is a sixth Christmas sit-out for the Very Rev Stephen Forde, Dean of Belfast, and the 47th 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 2023 appeal will focus firstly on helping smaller local charities who are supporting the most disadvantaged families and individuals in our communities.


“For so many people, the past 12 months of the ‘cost of living crisis’ have been incredibly difficult,” said Dean Forde. “Rising food bills and energy costs have the greatest impact on those who have the fewest resources. Poverty in the Northern Ireland of 2023 is real.”

Another focus will be charities working with those impacted by drug abuse in Northern Ireland. This, the Dean said, is a ‘source of pain and anguish in our community.’

“Drugs are readily available, easily accessed, and devastating in their impact,” the Dean said. “Drug abuse destroys lives, families and relationships and hope. And too often drug abuse takes lives, and leaves despair in its wake.”


A third priority area for this year’s appeal will be those charities and organisations who are offering bereavement support services in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic. “Although many in our communities are emerging from the shadow of the pandemic, those who experienced the loss of someone close during those two dark years, when our normal expressions of grief were denied, are often those who struggle most and who are in the greatest need of support,” Dean Forde said.

Last year, Black Santa raised £130,000 which allowed the appeal to support 126 local charities with grants and awards of £1,000 and more.

“This year, with the need for the Black Santa Appeal undiminished, I am asking people to donate whatever they can to help us exceed last year’s sum and help even more local charities to do what they do best,” Dean Forde said.

As usual, the Dean will be supported by the Bishops of Connor and Down and Dromore, the Cathedral Canons, clergy and the important team of backroom helpers whose dedication year-on-year keeps the Black Santa tradition running like a well-oiled sled!

Dean Forde will be on the steps every day until Christmas Eve, with the exception of Sunday December 17.

Black Santa will once again be partnering with PWC for this year’s appeal. New for this year, people can donate using the specially designed QR code (pictured right). Find out more on the dedicated Black Santa website

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