WEARSIDE MATTERS: Sunderland Street Pastors prepare for a busy month

Sunderland Street Pastors prepare for a busy December.

Sunderland Street Pastors prepare for a busy December.

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Festive revellers are being urged to stay safe, as the Sunderland Street Pastors prepare for a busy December.

The Christian organisation, manned entirely by volunteers who take to the streets to offer support to party-goers who may have over-indulged, is reminding people not to put themselves at risk by drinking too much over Christmas and New Year.

Colin Fozzard, who – along with other church-going volunteers – works through the night to spread his faith through his work, said that, during what is traditionally the busiest time of the year for pubs and nightclubs, the level of demand on the Street Pastors becomes greater than ever.

“Christmas is a wonderful time of year, and one in which people enjoy letting their hair down after a busy year and enjoying themselves with their friends and loved ones. And we would never want people to miss out on that,” said Mr Fozzard, who is one of HOW MANY ‘street angels’, who between them cover the streets every Monday, Friday and Saturday.

“We know that it is really easy to get swept away in the party atmosphere and to overdo it with alcohol, so we just want to remind people to take it easy, and make sure they don’t drink too much and ruin their night out.

“We want everyone to enjoy a great Christmas, and to get home to their families untroubled after enjoying their night out to celebrate.”

Street Pastors is not just about people who are worse for wear. Its links to the church mean that it is about engaging with people in need, and, as Colin describes it, ‘showing them the love of God’.

“Christmas is often a time for people to spend with their family, and for those who may not have the perfect festive season ahead, it might only take a few drinks for them to feel vulnerable and emotional.

“We can provide a friendly ear to listen and support, or even just help get them in a cab and safely on their way home if they want to do that.

“This really is about being a support to people and giving our time to spread the values that are so important to us as Christians – especially so at Christmastime.”

Now in to its sixth year, Street Pastors are the church in action on the streets of Sunderland.

They take to the streets between 10pm and 4am, covering all the main areas of the city centre during the evening hours.

To find out more, visit www.streetpastors.org/locations/sunderland

CITY OF ANGELS SOUGHT FOR CHRISTMAS

Sunderland’s tight-knit city centre community is coming together to back a Christmas campaign to spread joy to the streets of the city.

Traders from the Park Lane area of Sunderland are appealing to people with a passion for crafting to make and donate special knitted angels that will help to provide a festive welcome for children and families coming into the city centre over the Christmas period.

It is hoped that the initiative, which picks up on the ‘knitting bombing’ trend, will result in the streets and trees around Park Lane adorned with these unique woollen gifts of knitted angels that can be collected by young children, creating a special festive welcome for families in the city.

Karen Dickman, owner of Port of Call, one of the venues that is working on the area’s plans for Christmas, said: “Knitting bombing is a great way of spreading some Christmas joy, and as the welcome point in the city for thousands of Christmas shoppers coming into the city centre, we thought it would be a great way of bringing to life the friendliness of the place.”

The knitted angels will be left around the Park Lane area, and will wait to be collected by a stranger, who can then keep the toy or share them as a gift this Christmas.

The trend for knitting-bombing took off last year, with cross-stitched cuddlies and purl-knit pressies left in towns and cities across the city, as random acts of kindness designed to spread cheer over the festive period.

“A huge number of families make their way through Park Lane, as a thoroughfare to the bus and Metro station, so it really is a gateway to the city centre.

“We have been working hard to come up with things to make the area feel welcoming, and as well as lights and entertainment, we really do think that the angels will give a festive feeling and a feel-good-factor in the area.

“To be able to bring a smile to the faces of children coming into the city centre is so special at Christmas and we hope people get behind us and get knitting.”

Those wishing to donate their Christmas angels can drop them to Port of Call in Park Lane or Reynolds Outdoor in Derwent Street, and the angels will dress the streets of Park Lane on Thursday evenings throughout December, between 3pm and 6pm.