It wouldn’t be Christmas in Oxford without the traditional Macmillan fundraiser at Christ Church Cathedral.

Founded 22 years ago by Petronella Seccombe, this festive treat is always a sparkling occasion with its cocktail of favourite carols, seasonal choral music and readings by celebrities.

This year’s guests are Endeavour star Shaun Evans, actress Sinead Cusack, TV producer John Lloyd (Spitting Image, Blackadder, Not the Nine O’Clock News) and BBC Arts editor Will Gompertz.

“It’s very festive, but not particularly religious,” says committee member Phillipa Rooney. “It’s not like the Nine Lessons and Carols. It’s Christmas-themed in a slightly lighter way.

“The readings are a combination of light-hearted ones and some with a more religious view, but nothing from the Bible. We’ve got carols that everyone can sing along to, and the choir will be singing a mixture of familiar and little-known seasonal pieces.

“Magdalen College School Brass Ensemble will be playing in the quad as people arrive, so while they’re waiting to go in there’s a festive spirit. And hopefully by the end, whilst there’s some more contemplative parts of the readings and songs, the last ones are on a lighter note so people will come out smiling and thinking, Christmas is on the way.”

Making a welcome return from last year are conductor Tom Hammond-Davis and The Blenheim Singers, and they will be joined by New College organist Robert Quinney and New College chorister Edward Bennett.

“The guest readers are key for us,” Phillipa says. “Having celebrities to read really makes it different every year and makes it interesting for the audience each time.”

The key to the whole event, of course, is that it raises money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

“Last year we became the biggest single Macmillan Cancer Support fundraising event in Oxfordshire, and we raised £32,000, so we’re proud that we’re doing a significant amount for the local Macmillan services,” says Philippa.

“The funds raised are ring-fenced for Oxfordshire, so it’s nice to know it’s going directly to here.”

John Lloyd, one of the celebrity readers, says: “The last time I helped raise money for the wonderful people at Macmillan was by telling jokes to 200 mechanical engineers in Derby football stadium. Next I find I’m reading poetry from the pulpit in Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. The two experiences could hardly be more different, but I guess that’s fair enough. Cancer is no respecter of persons.”

Tickets always sell quickly and any remaining tickets are likely to be for lower-priced seats, but Phillipa is keen to stress that these are still worth snapping up if you can. We have TV screens, so even in the lower-range seats you can still get a really great experience. Also, the choir doesn’t just sing in the stalls – it does some of its numbers in different parts of the cathedral., so they might be standing just beside you for one of their pieces.”

Sinead Cusack says: “I love doing this celebration. It’s always a great night in support of a great organisation.”

Will Gompertz agrees: “It’s a huge honour to take part in such a special Christmas concert in one of the world’s greatest cathedrals, in the world’s greatest city, in aid of an extraordinary and vital charity.”

  • A Celebration of Christmas
  • Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford
  • Tomorrow, 8pm
  • Tickets: 01865 305305 or on the door