Press releases

Community unites at ShelterBox’s Christmas carol concert

Carols under the stars after a fire alarm interrupted the service.

20 December 2023

People inside Truro Cathedral

Community unites at ShelterBox’s Christmas carol concert

Hundreds of people packed into Truro Cathedral last night (19 December) for ShelterBox’s first Christmas carol concert at the venue. The sold-out event, which was attended by over 700 people, was held by the international disaster relief charity to raise awareness of, and funds for, its work supporting people around the world who have been left without shelter after disaster.

Part of the concert was held under the stars, after the congregation had to evacuate the Cathedral when a fire alarm interrupted the service. It didn’t dampen festive spirits, with the carols continuing by star and solar light, to add to a very special and memorable evening.

Guests from across Cornwall were treated to performances by the Cornish all female sea shanty group, The Clams, and community choirs, the Suitcase Singers and the Ingleheart Singers.

Olha Lemesheva, a Ukrainian dentist living in Cornwall, did a reading of a poem by Ukrainian poet, Serhiy Zhadan. Olha fled Kharkiv with her son to another part of the country in February 2022 to the sound of explosions, with only what they could fit in their rucksacks. The poem that Olha read, ‘What Would You Take?’, is an emotional reflection on the importance of home, and echoes ShelterBox’s mission to ensure no one is left without shelter after disaster.

After returning inside for the remainder of the service and reflecting on the work of the charity this year, ShelterBox CEO, Sanj Srikanthan said: “I promise you it was not our plan to give you a taste of displacement this evening and have you all stand outside. It was an unplanned but timely reminder of how quickly things can change and how quickly you can lose a roof over your head.

“The year has been what I would describe as restless and disruptive. Right now, for ShelterBox from The Holy Land, to Pacific islands, to forgotten Sudanese refugees who are crossing into Chad in a conflict that doesn’t get the news, we have been busier than ever, and it has been relentless.

“So, it’s been really wonderful for this evening to take a moment for the stillness to set and to really reflect with all of you and why we do it.”

During the service, the audience were treated to a showing of ShelterBox’s new winter appeal film, fronted by actor Imelda Staunton. In the film, Imelda reads ‘In the Cold Night’, a children’s book written by children’s author, Sarah Tagholm and illustrated by Karen George. The story raises awareness of the threat the cold poses to people fleeing conflict or disaster and is inspired by the people the charity supported in Türkiye and Syria after the earthquakes earlier in the year.

Tickets for the carol concert, just around the corner from ShelterBox HQ, were donation based and sold out within two weeks. The event was supported by special guest, renowned presenter, writer and journalist, Fern Britton, who did a reading of the poem ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ by Clement Clarke Moore.

This year, the Cornwall-based charity has supported around 250,000 people across 13 countries – possible because of the support it receives.

“We don’t take that support for granted,” said Sanj Srikanthan as he wrapped up the concert.

“We don’t take you for granted. It’s really important to us that we can enjoy this moment to say how proud we are of the support you give. Cornwall is not a wealthy county compared to many others, but we are the contribution from Cornwall to the world to make the world a little bit better for people, who day by day, hour by hour, are losing their homes to disaster and conflict.”

During wintertime in places where temperatures drop below freezing, like Syria, Morocco and Ukraine, people living without adequate shelter face even more hardship. ShelterBox is supporting people in these countries by providing emergency shelter aid and other essential items like children’s winter clothing and thermal blankets so that people can keep themselves, and their families, warm.

To watch the recording of the carol service, visit:


For more information contact the press office at ShelterBox via [email protected].

Notes to Editors

  • Images and b-roll from ShelterBox’s carol concert included.
  • Interviews available on request with ShelterBox.