Griff Rhys Jones' Christmas gift to Ipswich as celebrity show returns

Griff Rhys Jones says he has 'never been so moved' as when he visited The Treehouse hospice in Ipswi

Griff Rhys Jones is returning to the Regent Theatre to host Merry Christmas Ipswich - Credit: Archant

Griff Rhys Jones is to give Suffolk a special festive gift - by returning with his popular "Merry Christmas Ipswich" celebrity show to raise vital cash for a children's hospice.

The comedian raised £70,000 for East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) when he last brought a line-up of famous friends such as Lee Mack, Angus Deayton and Al Murray to the town's Regent Theatre for a yuletide extravaganza.

Griff Rhys Jones Happy Christmas Ipswich show

Griff Rhys Jones on stage at the Regent with stars Rory McGrath, Lee Mack and Rick Wakeman at the 2019 event - Credit: East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH)

He even turned up in Grit Rhys Jones, a yellow gritting lorry comically named after him by Suffolk Highways to honour local celebrities.

Griff Rhys Jones with the gritter that has been named after him outside The Regent Picture: Archant

Griff amused onlookers at the 2019 show by turning up in a Suffolk Highways gritting lorry which had been named after him - Credit: Archant

But the show had to be cancelled in 2020, because of the coronavirus crisis.

Griff, who rose to fame on Not the Nine O'Clock News, instead held his Celebrity Bottom Auction - raising £146,466 for EACH, which runs The Treehouse hospice in Ipswich.

But he is now phoning round his contacts book of celebrity friends to put together another stellar line-up at the Regent on December 6.

In a video message as early bird tickets go on sale today, Griff said: "We're going to do another Happy Christmas Ipswich.

Griff Rhys Jones: "East Anglias Childrens Hospices is the most direct and valuable charity I have ever been involved...

Griff Rhys Jones held the Celebrity Bottom Drawer auction last year in place of the live Christmas show - Credit: NEIL DIDSBURY

"We did the first one in 2019. It was a fantastic night and we raised £70,000 for EACH.

"It was an achievement - but I get the feeling we can better than that.

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"I'm going to get onto some old mates and we're going to come and have another show."

The event comes at the right time for EACH which, like many charities, has seen its fundraising income slashed as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Griff Rhys Jones got the rich and famous to donate to Celebrity Bottom Drawer. Picture: NEIL DIDSBURY

Griff Rhys Jones hopes to beat the £70,000 raised at the last live show - Credit: NEIL DIDSBURY

The charity - which runs The Nook in Norfolk, The Treehouse in Ipswich and its hospice in Milton, near Cambridge - said the sheer generosity of the public had helped it through a time where it was forced to focus its services on the most important, end-of-life care.

It also moved many therapy services online.

The Treehouse hospice in Ipswich has been praised by inspectors. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

The Treehouse hospice in Ipswich will benefit from the fundraising - Credit: Rachel Edge

EACH only gets 16% of its funding from statutory bodies - meaning it has to raise the rest itself, at a time when income from fundraising events and charity shops has been severely reduced.

“I hope it will make a major contribution to helping EACH during what has been, during lockdown, a very difficult time," Griff said in his video.

"We can get together, we can have fun, we can have music, we can have dancing and we can have comedy – and we can have Happy Christmas Ipswich…2!”

Griff has previously spoken of how visiting EACH's hospice has moved him to tears.

Kevin Clements, EACH director of fundraising, said: “In 2019, we had an incredible sell-out and unique evening of hilarious laughs.

"This year’s line-up will be announced in September and it promises to be an even bigger and better night than before.

"We’re delighted to say that Birketts have generously agreed to sponsor the event, meaning every penny raised will go directly towards continuing care for local children and young people with life-threatening conditions, and support for their families.

"We’d urge people to book early-bird discounted tickets as soon as they can, so they don’t miss out on another great night.”

Early-bird tickets start from £35, including a booking fee.

They are available by visiting the Ipswich Theatres website at 10am today.

You can also call the Regent Box Office on 01473 433100.

For more information about EACH, visit the charity's website.