THE Humbug Club is back – and its members are more Scrooge-like than ever before.

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For several years now the Victory pub in Walton on the Naze has been home to the club, which transforms it into a Christmas-free zone for the duration of December.

Any upbeat mention of the 25th or humming of classic carols is met with instant punishment – a swift fine, many a furrowed brow and a stern admonishment from fellow club members.

But secretly the club members are doing a good deed – all their fines will go to East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) and over the years more than £2,500 has been raised.

And to prove the point that they’re not all heartless Grinches there’s even a brief amnesty on Christmas Day itself. Between 12noon and 2pm members – should they feel sufficiently festive – can wish each other a ‘merry Christmas’ and sing a seasonal song or two.

Landlord Russell Bettany, 48, said that although reindeer meat was off the menu this year, the club was proving as popular as ever.

“There’s been some classic humbug action and we’ve been reinforcing all the club rules.

“No Christmas carols, no mention of any festive words at all. Upon the mention of any festive words, humming of Christmas songs or anything to do with the festive period, that customer is fined a minimum of 50 pence.

“It all goes into a charity pot and that goes to EACH, a cause close to all our hearts. Christmas is about children, so that’s why we support EACH.

“We raised about £500 last year so we’ve raised about £2,500 over the years. We do have the amnesty on Christmas Day between noon and 2pm when the members are able to say ‘merry Christmas’. But if anyone says it outside those hours, it’s like a tumbleweed moment and that person is glared at and they are fined immediately.”

The pub, in Suffolk Street, has hit the headlines around the world thanks to its distaste for festive fun and that has helped raise even more money for EACH.

And Mr Bettany said there was no chance of a sudden change of heart and that the club was here to stay.

“We will stay humbug, without question. That’s never going to change for us. It’s totally tongue-in-cheek of course and it’s about raising money for the children.”

For details about EACH, visit www.each.org.uk.

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