Continuing terror threat forces King's College Chapel to scrap traditional queue for Christmas carol concert
It is one of those longstanding traditions - such as the last night of the Proms or the overnight queue for Wimbledon tickets - which appears to be a unique feature of British life. But the fear of a potential terror attack has now forced the organisers of the King's College Chapel carol concert to scrap its queue for seats and replace it with ticket-only entry. For decades crowds have formed long queues outside the Cambridge college in the hours before its annual concert of Christmas carols and readings. In recent years hundreds of people have waited overnight in order to claim one of around 500 seats. However, members of the public who want to attend will now have to buy a ticket in advance, allocating them a specific seat. They will also no longer be able to bring the large number of parcels and Christma shopping many of them used to take into the chapel after a day of festive spending in the city centre and will be limited to just a small bag. People queue for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College Cambridge just after dawn 24th December 2013. Some slept overnight to get a good place in the queue. Credit: Julian Eales/Alamy The changes come after a spate of terror attacks against soft targets in Britain. These included the bombing of an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena in May, in which 22 mainly young music fans were killed, and the London Bridge attack in the following month, which saw eight people killed and 48 injured when an Isis inspired terror cell went on the rampage. It also follows a call by the Isis terror group for its followers to kidnap non-Muslim children in Europe. Its call, published in the group’s monthly Rumiyah magazine, was illustrated with a photograph of British choir boys. Amid this atmosphere of an increased threat level and heightened security concerns King's College felt it had no alternative but take measures to protect the safety of the crowds attending the carol concert. The Revd Dr Stephen Cherry, the Dean of King’s College Chapel, told The Telegraph: “We made this change after careful appraisal of our own situation in the light of the current level of security risk across the country. It is a break with tradition but we all recognise that if traditions are to survive they need to respond to the reality of the world we live in today.” He added: “For us the most important things are that we maintain the service as an occasion that is familiar, beautiful, spiritual and inspiring, that it is broadcast to millions of people around the world and that we are able to welcome to the service hundreds of local people and international visitors. After Christmas we will reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the new system. On the whole, people appreciate that we are doing what we can to look after them and to ensure it’s a great occasion.” The concert, properly known as A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, was introduced by former WWI Army chaplain Eric Milner-White in 1918 “to bring a more imaginative approach to worship” and first broadcast in 1928. The service, which is broadcast to millions of people around the world, always opens with 'Once in Royal David's City', and includes a new, specially commissioned carol. This year’s festival begins at 3pm on Christmas Eve and will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 4 and at 2pm on Radio 3 on Christmas Day. Those wishing to attend should come in person to the College after 7.30am on Christmas Eve with photographic identification. Here they will be issued with a ticket for a specific seat at the service and asked to come back after 1:30pm for admission to the Chapel. Members of the congregation are asked not to bring anything larger than a small handbag with them to the Chapel. In a note to the congregation Dr Cherry explained: “By issuing tickets in this way we will maintain the generous spirit of the occasion without requiring members of the congregation to stand outside in the cold all morning.”
It's been a rough year for top seeds at Wimbledon.