Northern Ireland

Dean John Mann starting Black Santa charity sit-out

The Very Reverend John Mann is starting the Black Santa sit-out
Image caption The Very Reverend John Mann is starting the Black Santa sit-out

Belfast's Black Santa is due to begin his annual Christmas sit-out for charity at St Anne's Cathedral.

It is the third time that the dean of the cathedral, the Very Rev John Mann, will be collecting money for charity outside St Anne's until Christmas Eve.

The vigil started in 1976 under Dean Sammy Crooks and has raised millions of pounds for charity since then.

Dean Jack Shearer, who died in 2001, was initially dubbed Black Santa by the media in the 1980s.

This was because of his distinctive clothing, and the name caught on with the public.

The appeal raises money for various charities in Northern Ireland as well as Christian Aid.

This will be the 37th Black Santa annual sit-out. This year there will be a separate collection for the Philippines Appeal.

Cathedral steps

Most of the money collected will be distributed to local charities, with a portion going towards overseas work.

A total of 207 charities received a share of the £192,000 raised in last year's appeal.

In the days leading up to Christmas Eve, Dean Mann will be joined on the cathedral steps by cathedral clergy, the bishops of Connor and Down and Dromore, and members of the cathedral chapter.

Dean Mann said: "I have not risked checking the weather forecast, I just hope it doesn't rain. But whatever the weather, I look forward to meeting lots of people on the steps of the cathedral in the coming days."

Despite the difficult financial times, he hopes to raise close to £200,000.

After the Asian tsunami in 2004 the then dean, Houston McKelvey, extended the time for collection. Thousands of people turned up to the cathedral to donate money for the victims, raising £1.6m in just a few weeks.

Nearly 200 charities are seeking help this year.

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