Christmas

Longer read: Bring baby Jesus back to Ilford

PUBLISHED: 17:13 23 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:46 24 November 2017

A Nativity scene. Picture Ben Birchall

A Nativity scene. Picture Ben Birchall

PA Archive/PA Images

A Gants Hill United Reformed Church preacher is calling on the community to work together to create a Nativity scene in Ilford town centre.

Lesley Hilton is a lay preacher at Gants Hill United Reform Church Lesley Hilton is a lay preacher at Gants Hill United Reform Church

Lay preacher and ex-councillor Lesley Hilton said Christmas is about peace and love and not presents.

She believes that amid the emphasis on spending money, a religious symbol should be installed in Ilford.

“I would love to see a really nice crib scene, I want to remind people what Christmas is all about,” she said.

“I am calling on residents to come together to create one - it should be possible.

Crib scene. Picture: Ron Jeffries Crib scene. Picture: Ron Jeffries

“But please no blonde-haired blue-eyed Mary and Jesus – we want middle eastern.”

A Recorder asked readers if they would like to see one alongside all the commercial events planned in the town centre received more than 600 responses and a whopping 83per cent said yes.

Herbert Street commented under our Facebook post: “Like most people in the UK I have no religion but the Nativity is as much a part of the Christmas tradition as Father Christmas and mince pies, so yes.

Facebook user Caroline Cruse said: “Irrespective of the fact that some people don’t celebrate Christmas, a great many people do. It is a tradition that ought to continue as a symbolic representation of what Christmas means.”

Ilford town centre. Picture: Paul Bennett Ilford town centre. Picture: Paul Bennett

Ben Waters joined the debate and added: “The last one in about 2001 was vandalised beyond repair, I think Christmas lights and decorations are suitable.”

Tj Bhamra shared a similar viewpoint and said it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money as it is likely to be vandalised.

Lesley is asking interested residents to get in touch with the Recorder so she can organise a group to make a crib and baby Jesus.

“It should be possible to do,” she added.

“All you need is a Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and a star. You don’t even need all the animals, kings and shepherds.”

John Clifton, of the Ilford Salvation Army, said while a Nativity scene is great, he is focusing on another part of the Christmas story.

“A key part of the story of Jesus’ birth is that he and his family were constantly told that there was ‘no room at the inn’,” he said

“This is basically the same message given to homeless people every day in Ilford.

“My focus at Christmas is on running the shelter at The Salvation Army, and being able to say ‘welcome’ instead of ‘no room’.

“Jesus was born into the world homeless and it seems to me that serving at the shelter is a great way to celebrate and honour him during the Christmas season.”

There has not been a Nativity scene in front of the town hall for a few years now.

Redbridge Council said it has no plans to put one in but will assist any group that wants to.

“We celebrate all religious and cultural events, and the council would be happy to work with any group wanting to place a Nativity scene in the town centre to help them to identify a suitable location,” said council leader Jas Athwal

“This year we’ll be continuing to work with Ilford Business Improvement District (BID) to support the Christmas tree and outdoor lights in Ilford, as well as the festive decorations in our other town centres.”

Ben Collins of BID added: “There are no plans to install a Nativity scene in the town centre this Christmas.

“There is a Santa’s Grotto in The Exchange from November 25 up to and including Christmas Eve, which is the most frequently requested attraction by the public.

“There is a Reindeer Trail to encourage families to shop their way around Ilford, a Christmas guide (printed and online) and much more which we will announce officially soon.”

Chairman of the Federation of Redbridge Muslim Organisations Farouk Ismail said he was “all for” a Nativity scene in Ilford.

“It is good to have Christmas celebrated in the way Christians do and it will take it away from commercialism to what it is meant to be.”

Related articles

Latest Ilford Stories

7 minutes ago

Daggers attackers responsible for 27 of club’s 38 league goals so far this term

08:21

West Ham United boss David Moyes was delighted to see his side pick up another Premier League point from a goalless draw with Arsenal.

The 47-year-old reflects on the level of performance against Sutton United and the improvement in the final third of the pitch

07:00

A former-gang member who was stabbed as a teenager and went on to transform his life speaks to EMMA YOULE about the impact of rising knife attacks on young people in Redbridge, in the first of a special series on knife crime

Dogged and determined, the Hammers silenced Arsenal’s big guns to share the spoils at London Stadium, where David Moyes’ influence again cast its shadow across a West Ham United side that frustrated and flummoxed Arséne Wenger’s team.

Yesterday, 17:00

Ilford joint-boss Billy Cove was left disappointed with his side’s lack of action after the Foxes had a league fixture against Stansted cancelled ahead of a blank weekend.

Yesterday, 16:15

The MPs for Ilford have backed our homelessness campaign and encouraged others to consider making the winter a little warmer for those who need it most.

Yesterday, 15:16

The family of Sanjeev Kumar, who died on the streets of Ilford, had no idea of his death - or that he was homeless.

PROMOTED CONTENT

You don’t have to make the trek to the North Pole to get into the Christmas spirit this year.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read

Show Job Lists

Competitions

Oaks Park High School Year 8 student Rhia Gondhia likes to make people feel welcome.

Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Ilford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now