Nativity world record for Wiltshire town
Baptist deacon's idea results in Calne breaking the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest live nativity
A total of 1,254 people donned traditional costumes to participate as wise men (and women), shepherds and angels on Saturday night (3 December) and beat the figure of 1,039 set by Utah two years ago.
The idea originally came from Rachel Rounds, deacon at Calne Baptist Church and head of media and communications at the Bible Society.
‘It was just great how the town came together,’ she said. ‘At one point we didn’t think we had managed it, but now hundreds will remember the nativity with a warm glow.
‘It just really goes to show what a community can do together - it was wonderful.’
The record is all the remarkable because Calne had removed the word Christmas from its festive celebration, describing it instead as a ‘Winter festival.’
A town council motion from Rachel’s husband Tom, the current Mayor of Calne, in favour of reverting back to using the word Christmas was carried unanimously. Last year a small nativity was staged by local amateur dramatic group the Calne Players – and it got Rachel thinking.
‘It was lovely, but a very small event,’ she said. ‘I bumped into two people from the council and said – ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could get the whole town dressed up?’
The officials agreed, and Rachel – a journalist who has previously worked with Channel 4, GMTV and Sky – began researching. She quickly discovered the Utah record and thought it would be in reach for Calne, which regularly attracts 4,000 people for its Christmas lights switch on.
With the go-ahead given, Rachel set about drumming up support and awareness through visiting the town’s local schools, engaging Calne’s social media channels, interviews on BBC Radio Wiltshire and leaflet drops.
Around 1,300 people registered, and the stage was set. The adjudicator was in place, with cameras on the entrance and exits. Everyone was given a wristband as they entered the town green, which would then be counted as they left.
Sheets and tea towels had been donated by local pubs, hotels and the launderette for the costumes, with extra ones on the day given by nearby residents. One lady had made 60 sets of angel wings.
The Calne Players played the role of Mary and Joseph and Sarah Dawkins provided her own baby, Sebastian, who is just three months old, to play Jesus. The crowd were joined by artist and street performer, Gareth Jones.
With the night also being Calne’s annual Christmas light switch-on and lantern parade, thousands of people from across Wiltshire were also in the town centre celebrating Christmas.
This added to the numbers, and Once the nativity had finished and all the wristbands counted, Guinness World Record official Jack Brockbank (pcitured right) described it as "a fantastic result" for the town.
The record is now jointly held by Calne Town Council and the Bible Society.
The Mayor of Calne, Tom Rounds (left), said, ‘What an extraordinary achievement and what a fantastic night. In rising to the challenge, the people of Calne have pulled together to show an amazing sense of community spirit.’
Paul Williams, CEO of Bible Society said, ‘People of faith; no faith and other faiths turned up to celebrate the original Christmas story from the Bible. They had great fun; broke the world record and, we hope, brought the Bible to life.
‘We hope people were reminded where the story came from and what it means to millions of Christians across the globe.’
An exhausted but happy Rachel (centre), who praised the contribution of the local churches in helping make the event a success, added, ‘Maybe something spiritual happened that night. God was there among the people.’
Photos: Bible Society Media
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