TO some, Guildhall Yard is a historic meeting place. Others see a (sometimes) sunny spot to grab some lunch. Elisabeth Mainelli has always thought that with a few fairy lights and a couple of sausages, it would be the perfect spot for a traditional German Christmas Market.
“It’s just the right size, mostly enclosed, right in the middle of the City, a traditional marketplace,” she explains. “If Guildhall Yard was somewhere in Germany, they would be setting it up right now.”
So when Elisabeth, a German native, was charged with co-chairing the Guildhall Christmas Market, the biennial fundraiser for the British Red Cross with husband Alderman Michael Mainelli, she knew just how to put her stamp on it.
“We’ll have mulled wine and Bratwurst… we had to compromise on a few things as it’s only for two days but we have a group of about eight huts and two trucks that we’ll be decorating so it will have the look and feel of a traditional Weihnachtsmarkt.”
Elisabeth has even organised the partners of European ambassadors to sell traditional homemade cookies for a stall as the Spouses of the EU Embassies in what could be a political statement given the current climate but, she assures us, isn’t.
“I can’t guarantee how many will actually be baking themselves though.”
The addition of a Weihnachtsmarkt is believed to be a first for the Guildhall Christmas Market, which dates all the way back to 1961, originally held in the Royal Exchange. Today it has grown into the largest single fundraising event for the Red Cross in the Square Mile, and one of the largest in the UK, raising more than £175,000 in 2015.
It is a target Elisabeth is hoping to beat with the help of more than 100 independent traders setting up stalls in Guildhall’s Great Hall, who will donate 10% of their profits to support the Red Cross.
Shoppers that feel the hunger pangs begin to set in can head to Foodiefest, the indoor food market of world flavours, which culminates in a special ticketed event hosted by TV presenter Loyd Grossman in conversation with the Aleppo Supper Club.
Founder Ahmad Abo Aziz will share his experience leaving war-torn Aleppo and how he uses food to share the memories of his country.
Back to the shops, the popular vintage clothing boutique returns with donated pieces from designer Amanda Wakeley, while some of the City’s livery companies will also be getting involved, including the Worshipful Company of Glovers, returning to its roots with a stall of winter gloves.
Modern day livery companies are also getting in on the act – World Traders will be selling antique jewellery and traditional German smokers, with all profits going to the Red Cross.
“There’s a huge effort by so many people, and it really goes beyond the money raising,” Elisabeth says. “It’s an exercise in how well the liveries work together on important causes and, I think, a great example of what the City does so well.”
Guildhall Christmas Market launches with a preview event hosted by the Lord and Lady Mayoress on 27 November from 5.30pm-9pm and opens again from 10.30am on 28 November.
Tickets are available from redcross.org.uk