MOST nativity plays have to make do with cardboard sheep and people playing both ends of a donkey.
But a Northumberland farm is bringing back tradition to stage a production with these real animals.
Wheelbirks Farm, near Stocksfield, is hosting the event this week, with all the profits going to North East charity Give Hope.
Brothers Tom and Hugh Richardson run the farm, which has established a nationwide reputation in recent years for its award-winning ice cream.
Tom’s wife Lucinda, who heads up the on-site ice cream parlour, came up with the idea to have the nativity story told on the farm.
She said: “I am so excited about this. It is about the real meaning of Christmas, the story of Christ’s birth and also about giving to people who really need it.
“What is so great is that many of our brilliant staff have volunteered to help and will be using their many talents, from acting to doing the costumes, or even just holding the donkey!
“This means that even more money will go to the charity and our suppliers are even helping out, with the donkey being lent to us by our fruit and vegetable supplier, Stobo’s of Corbridge.” The money raised will go to Give Hope, which works in poverty stricken villages in Zambia and Ethiopia with orphaned and vulnerable children. The charity was established in 2005 by Martin Zuch, who lives in Whittonstall, near Consett, County Durham.
Both Tom and Hugh have a starring role and Chris Shipley, who looks after the farm’s Jersey cows, will be appearing as an innkeeper.
The cast had their dress rehearsal yesterday and shows will be held tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday at 4pm.
As the nativity story begins, carols will be sung by some members of the choir from St James’ Church in Riding Mill.
Lucinda added: “I really hope that everyone, especially the children who come, will enjoy this special way to celebrate Christmas.
“And if it’s a success, who knows what we might put on next Christmas? I will just have to start hunting for reindeer now.”
There will be 40 places available for each of the three shows. Tickets cost £8.50 for adults and £6.50 for children, which includes mulled wine and mince pies after the performance, along with children’s refreshments.
There will also be Christmas craft sessions for children, on these three days, taking place in the ice cream parlour from 11am to 3pm.
For more information log on to www.wheelbirks.co.uk