Sholing Salvation Army grotto opens for 20th year
published on 6 Dec 2023
As the festive season unfolds, a member of Sholing’s Salvation Army church will be enchanting the community once again with his 20th annual Christmas Grotto.
Brian Jones’ dazzling display, featuring animatronic characters, penguins, polar bears, reindeers and an abundance of festive cheer, has become a beloved tradition, drawing in more than 300 children each year with all proceeds going back to the church and charity.
It takes a team of four three weeks to build the Grotto, and at 83, Brian admits he’s started to delegate some of the heavy lifting, but continues to curate the grotto for the children of Sholing.
He said: “Seeing the reactions of the children and their families really is the highlight of it all. I'm now seeing the next generation of the original children coming to join us – and that is very special indeed."
Brian has poured two decades of dedication into perfecting the winter wonderland which has spanned generations. He credits his creativity to his time working at Marwell Zoo where he spent a decade as groundskeeper and would help build their festive grotto.
He revealed: “Many of the items I use in Sholing’s display are gifts from Marwell. I never know what scenes I’m going to do before I start building it, but my time at the Zoo has given me a huge catalogue of ideas to inspire me.”
Matthew Stone leads Sholing Salvation Army and paid tribute to Brian.
He said: “We're so fortunate to have Brian, his creativity, and his commitment to making our church on North East Road a very special place this time of year. We really want to give the community's children something special and parents and carers some comfort and joy knowing their child can come and see Santa without having to stretch their budget.”
Ben Redhead, who lives locally, has been coming to the grotto since he was a child, and said he looks forward to its return each year.
He commented: “I used to feel so excited when this Grotto came to town, and now, to share it with my son is really special. It's just as magical for him as it was for me.”
Sholing Salvation Army Santa’s Grotto at 93 North East Road, Sholing, will be open from 10am to 1pm on 9, 16 and 23 December from 10am to 1pm. Entry is £6 per child, £1 per adult and no booking is required.