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Local food charity light Durham Cathedral’s Christmas tree at festive service

13 December 2021

On 12 December, Mim Skinner and Nikki Dravers from REfUSE Durham switched on the lights of Durham Cathedral’s gigantic Christmas tree during a special festive service.


During the special Lighting of the Tree and Blessing of the Crib service, Mim and Nikki, turned on the lights of the 25ft Norwegian Spruce Christmas Tree, igniting hope for all those in need at Christmas time.


Each year, Durham Cathedral invites special members of the community to light its tree. The tradition continues this year, with the invitation extended by the cathedral, in partnership with Durham 2025, to both Mim and Nikki to highlight the work and achievements of REfUSE Durham.


Along with Durham Cathedral, REfUSE is also part of the Durham 2025 campaign which aims to secure the prestigious title of UK City of Culture 2025 for County Durham. As a social enterprise, REfUSE is committed to reducing food waste, raising awareness of the impact of food waste and creating an environment where good food, good company and opportunities to learn new skills are available to those who want them.


Mim Skinner said: “Nikki and I were thrilled to be a part of the Lighting of the Tree and Blessing of the Crib Service. The Christmas story, shared at the service, tells of something incredible happening in a very ordinary setting. A homeless family who would become refugees from Herod’s violence had to give birth in a cow shed because they had nowhere to stay. In those humble beginnings a story started that we’re still telling now. The story of this baby would end with a gathering together too, at the last supper, where the disciples gathered to share food and stories.


“At Refuse we’re passionate about the amazing stories and connections that happen when you bring people together and share a meal. This is something we are exploring further within the People’s Food Project, one of several exciting initiatives being developed within County Durham’s UK City of Culture bid.”


Another highlight of the service saw The Dean of Durham blessing the crib with holy water at the font, as Durham Cathedral Choir and the Durham Cathedral Young Singers sang festive carols, with O little town of Bethlehem the chosen carol to start the festivities. An impressive programme of music followed, with the Choir and Young Singers treating the congregation to In the Bleak Midwinter and Hark the Heralds Angels Sing!


The Reverend Canon Michael Hampel, Vice- Dean and Precentor at Durham Cathedral said: “Durham Cathedral is a key player in the bid for County Durham to become the City of Culture in 2025 and we were delighted to be able to highlight this by inviting one of the partners, REfUSE Durham, to light the tree on behalf of the bid. At Christmas, we celebrate God becoming more like us so that we can try to be more like God and feeding those in need is a key response to Jesus’s teaching, and the work of REfUSE is part of what makes a community strong and inclusive. It was our pleasure to welcome Mim and Nikki to the cathedral and we ask them to take our prayers and gratitude back to their colleagues and the communities they work with.”


REfUSE Durham, located in Chester-le-Street, takes in around 12 tonnes of food each month would otherwise go to waste, from retailers around the North East. They then redistribute it to people through their ‘pay as you feel’ community café and restaurant in Chester-le Street, partnerships with other charities, and a Waste-Not Box delivery scheme.


Food is a crucial part of celebrations form many people at Christmas, but a large number of County Durham families dealing with poverty may face the choice between food and keeping warm this winter. Members of the public are invited to support those in need this winter by donating to their local foodbank, with Durham Cathedral hosting a collection point for Durham Foodbank.


For more information about visiting the cathedral and booking for special services and events visit


Durham Cathedral is a member of Culture Durham, which is spearheading County Durham’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2025 with key partners Durham County Council and Durham University. To find out more about the bid, visit