OKEHAMPTON’S parish church has been chosen as the venue for this year’s BBC Radio Devon carol service being broadcast across the county on Christmas Day.

The annual service has previously been held in larger venues such as Exeter Cathedral and Buckfast Abbey but BBC Radio Devon presenter Matt Woodley has plumped this year for the parish church in the town where he grew up.

The service takes place in All Saints Church next Wednesday evening (December 4) at 7.30pm.

Matt will also be in town on Thursday (December 5) to switch on the Christmas lights at the town’s Edwardian Evening.

‘I am Okehampton born and bred and have a great fondness for the town,’ said Matt.

‘The radio station has tried to get around the county as much as possible for the service but we’ve never been to Okehampton before.

‘We have a very loyal group of listeners in Okehampton and although we’ve had an Easter service in Sampford Courtenay we’ve never been to Okehampton, so we thought it was high time we did.’

He added: ‘I thought it would be a good way to bring the town together and also to showcase Okehampton to the whole county, as the service will be broadcast on the radio on Christmas Day.’

Rector of All Saints the Rev Stephen Cook said: ‘We are really looking forward to it – it is quite an honour. It was all a bit last minute.

‘I had a call out of the blue from BBC Devon to say that they were looking for a smaller venue this year – they usually have it in Exeter Cathedral.’

‘It is a carol concert but is not going to be like Songs of Praise where they will go over parts of it again. They are going to record it as a service I understand. I have never done it before, so I’ll find out.’

The carol service will feature a performance by the Okehampton Choral Society which was founded by John Holland – Okehampton’s ‘Mr Music’ who died in May. The presenter said he wanted to pay tribute to him.

‘John was my music teacher at Okehampton College when I was at the college back in the 1990s,’ said presenter Matt.

‘He started the Okehampton Choral Society. Although they are all amateur singers they are outstanding and even though they have been on BBC Radio Devon before we thought it was high time they were on the air again.’

He added: ‘John got me through my GCSE and A-level music, so for me personally it is special that they are performing.’

Choirmaster Andrew Wilson has been conducting rehearsals with both choirs.

‘The choir will be doing some choral carols on their own and also some carols which all the people who come to the service can join in with,’ he said.

‘We have been rehearsing for the last three weeks.

The choral society meet on Mondays and the church choir meet on Wednesdays and they have been coming together on Mondays as well so we can all work together.’

The event comes in advance of the Okehampton Choral Society’s own Christmas concert at Fairplace Church on Saturday, December 14.

Tickets for the BBC service are free but people need to reserve theirs beforehand by emailing [email protected]