Advent calendars come with all sorts of fillings nowadays, not just chocolate. But the village of Redbourn in Hertfordshire has taken the idea of marking each day of Advent by opening a new door to a new level. The doors are real ones, and behind each one there are people waiting to spring a different surprise.
2018 is the second time Redbourne's Living Advent Calendar has run. It's organised by a committee involving the village's Anglican, Catholic, Methodist and independent churches and other local representatives.
Each evening at 6.15 pm anything up to a hundred people will gather outside a different door in the village to see what's inside – and it might be a nativity scene, a ukelele band, a primary school choir, a poetry reading or a magician – even a performance of Cinderella. Fifteen minutes later it's all over until the next day. Every performance is suitable for both children and adults, and a guide to the events – printed and distributed beforehand, and available online –tells people where to go.
It's a brilliantly simple idea that has caught the imagination of Redbourn's 6,000 inhabitants.
'It's brought the whole community together,' says Penny McAdam, one of the organising team. She instances a special needs school which put on a simple nativity performance, which many local people had never been inside, and an over-60s exercise class.
'Lots of people come and chat before it starts,' she says, adding that most tend to walk to the venue even though the village is quite spread out. Even last night's rain didn't put the audience off – around 50 turned out for a handbell performance.
And for those worried about the insurance implications of an event like this – it's fully covered by Ecclesiastical, the UK's leading insurer of church premises.
Click here for more information about Redbourn's Living Advent Calendar.