Charity Serves Up AbbeyFest
13 Sep 2021
by Katy Rink

Darren Tomkins from Gindifferent will help deliver a new kind of festival in Shrewsbury's Abbey, working with Lingen Davies Cancer Fund (Nov 26 & 27)

A new drinks festival will give beer and gin lovers the chance to enjoy a tipple in one of Shrewsbury’s most iconic buildings.

Abbeyfest on November 26 & 27 is a collaboration between Lingen Davies, Shrewsbury Abbey and the Gindifferent team, offering the chance to enjoy a festive drink in the spectacular surroundings of the historic building. With food options, live music and other entertainment on offer during the night, proceeds will be split equally between Shrewsbury Abbey and Lingen Davies. You'll be able to choose from the 'VIP seats' in the chancel area and among the choir stalls, or mix and mingle with a standing ticket, sampling your favourites from 40 different ales, or lager, spirits and local gins.

It's the latest in a string of unusual and quirky events from Shrewsbury Abbey, thanks to the creative thinking of events manager Isla Hunwick and new Vicar Rev Tom Atfield. Other happenings this autumn include the Organ Spectacular (October 16) with the newly restored William Hill organ providing the soundtrack to the silent German horror film Nosferatu, plus a Frozen singalong (November 20) with a giant screen showing the 2013 Disney hit. 

The new season of events aims to make the most of the spectacular setting, welcoming a new audience into the church and providing a valuable new stream of income. 

Isla Hunwick, events manager of Shrewsbury Abbey, said: "Shrewsbury Abbey is really excited to be hosting such an exciting and worthwhile event as Abbeyfest to help support the amazing work that Lingen Davies do. It's a festival of local beer, food, craft gin and the best entertainment in an amazing and unusual setting. You'll be able to absorb the atmosphere of the Abbey whilst enjoying the very best from local food and drink providers.

"Things are exceptionally tight at The Abbey, we have got to start doing interesting, different things that appeal to a much wider audience. We have cathedral running costs with a parish church congregation. Abbeyfest will literally help us keep the doors open. By appealing to a wider audience, that allows us to remain a place of prayer and pilgrimage." 

'Doing things differently' is already working: "We've had a huge amount of enquiries for christenings at the Abbey," Isla revealed. "Why are they getting christened at The Abbey? They like our wild flowers and big rainbow hearts on the doors! It makes people smile."

Even the repertoire for the organ is broadening, with organist Nigel Pursey now experimenting playing rock songs and other popular music: "The standard repertoire for the organ is quite niche," Isla added. "We need to open it up for a wider audience to appreciate this magnificent instrument."

Abbeyfest is one of a host of festive activities organised by the fundraising team at Lingen Davies Cancer Fund this season, along with a traditional carol concert, a family fun run (dress as Santa!) and an advent calendar supporting more than 20 Shropshire charities. 

The Shrewsbury-based cancer charity supports people going through a cancer diagnosis, treatment and living beyond cancer in the community, has also teamed up with Oswestry-based Adrenaline Sporting Events who recently ran the hugely successful Pedal the Borders cycle ride. This time the Adrenaline team is hosting a Santa Run for people to enjoy a 5K fun run – dressed up as Santa! It is being held in Oswestry on Sunday, December 5 as part of the town’s Christmas weekend. 

More traditional Christmas offerings include ever-popular Christmas cards which are available online and in the St Mary’s Christmas card shop, and a carol concert at The Abbey on Saturday, December 11. 

Finally, and by no means least, Lingen Davies has lead a large scale charity collaboration project Advent for Others which is a physical advent calendar featuring the work of 24 Shropshire-based charities. The calendars are available on a dedicated website and will also be in various retail outlets across the county. 

Lizzy Coleman, Events and Fundraising Officer for Lingen Davies, said: “We’re so pleased we can organise Christmas events again, it’s such a special time of year, and there’s a real appetite now both for people to take part in events, and support charities. 

“We’re really proud to be working with The Abbey and Darren Tomkins from Gindifferent to bring Abbeyfest to the people of Shropshire. It’s going to be a fabulous way for people to celebrate the start of Christmas by getting together with friends, family or work colleagues. 

“We hope the community gets behind these events to mark the festive period in a way we were unable to last year,” she added. 

Tickets for Abbeyfest are available on the charity’s website as well as further information about Christmas cards, and the carol concert. To purchase an Advent for Others advent calendar visit