Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Sixth and Final Holy Week Hut

There were very few followers who were prepared to follow Jesus all the way to the cross and there were very few of us at this last beach hut on Holy Saturday because the weather was so awful.  There is something very appropriate about focussing on death when the wind is howling around and the rain is lashing down and we had plenty of that on the seafront this day.

Helen Rawlings was the artist and we spent much of our time trying to protect her lithograph of soldiers and poppies from being damaged by the water whilst the poppy laden cross developed a beautiful shine from the water streaming down each flower.

We were reminded of Jesus words: 'greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends'.

A few hardy souls did make it down to see us and we huddled in the hut as we remembered Christ's death in the sharing of bread and wine.  It all felt very appropriate as we thought back to the feelings of those first followers as they tried to process the events of the Friday crucifixion without knowing that there was going to be a Sunday resurrection.

As I write this the Easter dawn is beginning to shine through the rain clouds and I am happy to say: 'Christ is risen, he is risen indeed'.

Friday, 25 March 2016

The Fifth Holy Week Hut

On this Good Friday it seemed appropriate for us to consider persecution and so the good folk of The Village church in Kemp Town put some thoughts together on this theme.  The day was clear and sunny but there was a bitterly cold wind blowing along the seafront which concentrated our minds and made sure everyone kept moving around to try and stay warm.

Mary and her team took the image of a hammer as their central motif because a hammer can be used to drive a nail home or to release it.  In the middle of the hut was a piece of timber bristling with nails and as one of the team read a story about humanities propensity to try and nail everything down, another nail was hammered into the wood.

We were also treated to the story of Paul Harfleet, an artist who plants pansies at the sites of incidents of homophobic abuse to highlight the persecution LBGTQ people are sometimes subjected to.  You can read about his work here.

Then we were all invited to come and release a nail and to collect a packet of seeds to plant wherever we like as a sign of our commitment to stand up to abuse and persecution.

Each night we have also had a simple sharing of bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus who was judged, burdened, faltered, loved, persecuted and eventually killed.

Tomorrow the final hut will focus on death as it falls on the day after Jesus has died and been laid in the tomb but before the day when he rises from the dead.

The Fourth Holy Week Hut

The theme on the fourth day of Holy Week was compassion but the weather was not very compassionate to us as it was rainy, cold and windy on the seafront for the first time this week.  Fortunately artist Lizzie Edwards was ensconced in the hut, out of the weather, along with her installation which was a modern take on Jesus compassionate act of service of the disciples at the last supper.

This fourth holy week hut is on the day we call Maundy Thursday when the church celebrates the instigation of the communion meal in the breaking of bread and sharing of wine, commemorating Jesus last meal with his friends before his journey to the cross.

The gospel of John tells us: Jesus got up from the supper table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him.  

This act of service showed us how we should behave towards each other, putting the other first and showing our love and compassion by serving them.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The Third Holy Week Hut

The theme tonight was failure and Martin Poole was the artist who seriously contemplated just putting a sign on the door saying 'sorry we've been unable to create an installation tonight' but that isn't an example of failure, it's just lazy!

The inspiration for tonight was the fact that there are three stations of the cross which feature Jesus falling.  We don't know why this happens three times as this is not based upon the Biblical account which only tells us that Jesus required the help of Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross.  But we all understand that it is human nature to fall and to fail and the installation in the hut tonight helped us to reflect on this in a variety of ways.

Inside the hut were pasted up images from controversial artist Kerry Skarbakka who creates images of people falling in very precarious and sometimes shocking ways.  You can read more about his work here.  Kerry Skarbakka was not a collaborator on this project. The appropriation of his imagery was used in context of this installation only. It should noted that his work is not intended to endorse any religious affiliation or association.

Alongside these was a video loop playing on a laptop which was created from a commercial for beer which has been slowed down and had an audio track called 'Falling Down' by Muse added.


Outside the hut was a board with a cross marked on it and an invitation to create the largest domino rally possible.

It was very hard to achieve a full cross of standing dominoes because invariably one of the dominoes would fall or the wind would blow them or a dog would jog the table.  So everyone who tried this had lots of opportunity to experience failure.


At one stage Sheila and Martin began to work together as one of them held on to a standing domino so as to prevent a collapse while the other person worked at standing dominoes up.  As soon as the Martin created the security of a domino barrier, Sheila commented on how she felt a sense of relief and relaxation which helped her building.  This was a moment of epiphany as we both realised that working together helped to allay our fear of failure.

Each night we have shared a simple breaking of bread as a way of connecting us to Jesus own journey to the cross and tonight that became a symbol of our unity as we understood that being together we could help each other not to fall.  This was accompanied by a George Herbert poem about rising and falling called Easter Wings and some prayers.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Second Holy Week Hut

Tonight was a gorgeous, clear sunny evening which almost felt like summer until the sun began to drop towards the horizon and the temperature followed it down.

The theme was burden and the hut was filled with an assortment of baggage collected together by Kirsty Tyler as a representation of all the stuff we carry around with us as we journey through life.  Some people seem to carry everything on their shoulders with the consequential weight this puts on their lives while others seem to be able to manage with hardly anything as they skip along the way.

A number of the suitcases had a luggage tag attached to them with a prayer asking God to help us with our burdens.  We all need help with our burdens from time to time, even Jesus was not able to carry his burdens on his own as he needed assistance from Simon of Cyrene on his journey to Calvary.

Sitting in front of this hut gave us a chance to think about the things that burden us, the things that cause us pain, and Kirsty offered an opportunity to write about those burdens on brown card luggage tags so that we could reflect on them and then dispose of them in the burning fire that was waiting in the brazier in front of the hut.

It was very liberating to be able to discard some of our baggage in this way as we sat and watched the orange sun dip towards the sea and the full moon rose at the other end of the sky.

This isn't always the easiest thing to do which leads us into tomorrows hut which will be about falling and failure.


Monday, 21 March 2016

The First Holy Week Hut

Our first ever Holy Week Hut debuted tonight as we begin the countdown to Easter.  This is not quite the same as the Advent countdown to Christmas but it is important as we come to the end of Lent.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and is a time for austerity and abstinence as we remember the 40 days and 40 nights that Jesus spent in the wilderness before he began his life as a preacher, teacher, healer and mystic.  (If you are very observant (and the kind of person that likes details) you might realise that 10th February to 27th March (Ash Wednesday to Easter Day) is actually 46 days but that's because Sundays are always treated as feast days as this is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus).

Christians have been walking the via dolorosa since the earliest times both physically and metaphorically.  Sometime in the 15th centre the Franciscans put this story together as a series of tableau that became known as the Stations of the Cross.  These fourteen scenes describe different stages in Jesus journey to the cross, some of which can be found in the Bible and others which have been handed down through the oral tradition.

For the Holy Week hut we have combined some of the stations into six themes as the focus for a series of artists to create something in Beach Hut 395 every night from 5.30pm-6.30pm.

Tonight the theme was judgement as the Easter story begins with Jesus being condemned to death by Pilate.  Artist Lucy Lauener chose to look at social media as an example of the judgemental attitudes that many people have.  Her installation showed us the story of someone on Youtube singing along to a Rihanna track and the comments posted about this as a result.

We were made to think about our own judgement of others as we saw our own image reflected in the mirrored back wall of the hut and we were watched by a large pair of painted eyes.  The legend 'first take the log out of your own eye and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brothers eye' from the gospel of Matthew chapter 7 verse 5.

This provoked lots of discussion amongst those who came along tonight about the attitudes we have towards others and the way we make snap judgements about people and situations.

Tomorrow we're back at hut 395 once more thinking about burdens.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Beach Hut 395

It's Christmas Eve and the last hut in the 2015 Beach Hut Advent Calendar.  While the temperatures have been kind to us this month, the wind has not been so pleasant as it has blown a gale most nights, sometimes with some added rain for good measure.

Tonight, hut 395 was visited by the angel Gabriel, delivering the message that Love Came Down at Christmas.  Angels are most often described as messengers in the Bible and that's the main role they play in the Christmas story, but they are also sometimes representatives of God and occasionally called upon to be soldiers, which is why this angel had wings made of swords.

The angel tonight was performing all these roles as a stunning example of divine beauty, whilst also offering protection and support to the tiny baby Jesus laying at her feet.  The love of God poured down from her onto the child of God at her feet, as the lines of her dress flowed and billowed from heaven to earth.

The most important thing about angels at Christmas is that they are the bearers of glad tidings and they make up the choir which sings 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, peace to all people on earth'.

This is a timeless message which is perhaps particularly relevant in 2015 as we look back on a year of conflict, destitution and refugee migration.  We need to be reminded that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were themselves a refugee family who relied on the kindness of strangers to provide them with a place to lay their heads that first Christmas.

To say that love came down at Christmas is to say that God showed his love for us in sharing our human condition, in all it's joy and difficulty.

During the evening we all sang carols about the angels including The First Nowell, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and O Come All Ye Faithful with fantastic impromptu descant singing from some parts of the crowd.

We shared a Christmas reading and a Christmas blessing and discovered that three families have been along to every single hut this year so held a draw for the Christmas hamper which was won by Seth who has dragged various other members of his family along with him each night.

Everyone got to take a unique Angel artwork home with them along with a Christmas message about divine peace and joy.

It's been a fantastic year for the Beach Hut Advent Calendar.  Thanks to all those who have created such amazing huts and to the many hundreds of people who've been along.  We will write one more blog at some point with a round up of all the different media stories that have featured this event.  If you're up early enough on the morning of Sunday 27th you can listen to Revd. Martin Poole on Radio 4 during the Sunday programme at 7.10am as the whole show is themed on the relationship between religion and art.

May God bless you with peace and joy this Christmas and throughout 2016.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Beach Hut 305

The Village church (part of the Metropolitan Community Church network, you can read about them here) took charge this evening and chose a seldom used carol as the focus for their art installation.

'Now light one thousand Christmas lights on dark earth tonight!' is not often sung here as it's a Swedish carol which is based on a poem written about the festival of Santa Lucia which is on December 13th.  We're only ten days late in featuring it as part of the Beach Hut Advent Calendar and it was good to have an international flavour to the evening.

The development of this carol into an art installation involved the making and hanging of hundreds of paper lanterns so that the ceiling of the hut was completely covered in swaying, swinging lights as the gusty wind (yet again!) blew all around us.  In the centre of the hut were some giant versions of the same lanterns as well as a small nativity in a Scandinavian style.

Outside the hut was a labyrinth which was outlined with lamps from Solar Aid, adding further to the theme of lamp lighting.  Solar Aid lights are powered entirely by solar energy and for every lamp bought in this country, two are sent to a developing country where there is no electricity.  These are particularly used for education purposes so that school children and students can study after dark and are invaluable.

You can read more about the charity here.

The church also brought some singers and some carol sheets and a pretty good crowd gathered around the labyrinth to sing a variety of Christmas carols, not just the one which had inspired the installation.

Our final hut of this year will be up at Hove Lagoon and is number 395.  There will be an angel theme and lots of carol singing, readings and a Christmas blessing as well as an opportunity to take away a small original artwork.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Beach Hut 329

Hut 329 tonight was one of the jolliest, joy-filled huts we've had despite a howling gale and brief showers of rain mixed in with the sea spray being blown in from the crashing waves.

The carol was Little Donkey, and the title character took central stage in a hut bedecked with straw and a friendly cow.  The whole scene was topped off with an amazing star, streaming light down onto the hut which meant that we didn't have to erect our usual blue star on a stick so that people could find the right hut tonight.

Later on the donkey was joined by Mary and Joseph and later still by friends and a couple of adult sized sheep!

Pretty soon the hut was packed with children who all wanted to get in on the act, fulfilling the prophecy on the placard which said 'No Room in the Inn'!

The hut is owned by Katie and her whole extended family came and joined in the fun from the youngest child right through to her 92 year old Grandmother.  Her ownership of the hut is in response to the sudden death of her husband and tonight was a fantastic example of that way that light can banish the darkness - the heart of the message of Advent.

Only two more huts to go and the penultimate hut of this year's calendar is number 305.  See you tomorrow.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Beach Hut 11

The carol tonight was The First Nowell (or is Noel? No-one seems entirely sure).  The carol begins by talking about the angels but then spends the next three verses describing the star and the important role it plays in guiding the wise men to the stable in Bethlehem.  So hut 11 was filled with all sorts of stars which danced and swayed in the strong wind which has returned to remind us that we're running this event outside in the middle of winter.

The hut had a lovely homely feel to it which was enhanced by the little collection of candles placed on the floor of the hut giving us a different perspective on light.  Amazingly, despite the very blustery weather, these all stayed alight for the whole hour giving the hut a feeling of warmth and cosiness.

It was appropriate that we should be focussing on light tonight as it's the winter solstice today and shortly after our event, hordes of people took part in the annual Burning of the Clocks parade to celebrate that the days will be getting longer from now on, not shorter.

Although it feels like an ancient tradition and seems to echo certain long held beliefs, Burning of the Clocks was actually invented in 1993 and is another Brighton tradition that is firmly set in people's hearts, minds and diaries, in the same way that we hope the Beach Hut Advent Calendar is.

The final three huts are all up at Hove Lagoon and the next one will be hut number 329.