15th December 2018
Last weekend saw me – and many others – in Swindon’s Old Town being part of The Journey.
The Journey, as described on photographer Elmar Rubio’s website, was ‘an immense, immersive theatrical telling of the Christmas story’. It entailed a processional performance that unfolded throughout Old Town that showed ‘the true nature, the faith and the fearlessness of those chosen to birth and raise Jesus Christ. It was truly epic, beautiful and moving and I offer my biggest and most heartfelt congratulations and thanks to all those who made it happen.
It began at Lethbridge School with crowd scenes, and the Romans telling the residents of Nazareth that they had to return to their birth place to be counted – for a census. The Journey progressed down to Wood Street, through a bazaar, and into Christ Church for the Nativity – with a real baby!
A couple of images below of this wonderful theatrical event, with thanks to Elmar Rubio for permission to use them. There’s dozens more here – follow the journey in fantastic photographic detail. Elmar is a brilliant photographer.
As I walked along with the performance it occurred to me how much the Christmas story carries resonances for all of us. Whether you’re a firm believer in God and Christ, are on the fence or strongly of the opinion that it’s nothing more than the greatest story ever told – it has resonances. Because, aside from the birth of Christ element, the Christmas story is one of people being made to move en masse, without fault and without choice. Whether it be fleeing from war, or famine or natural disaster – or forced from their homes for racist/political reasons – people have suffered mass exodus since time immemorial. The world hasn’t come to anything. Such atrocities were ever thus.
The residents of Nazareth, and all towns and villages in the region, were forced to undertake a long and arduous journey to Bethlehem because the Romans decided to count the population in its occupied territories. No matter if you were old, or sick or, like Mary, heavily pregnant – you had to go. Many must have died along the way.
And mass exodus is something that moved David Bent to paint his Movement 2000 collection. These works took David two years to paint. He undertook the project from feeling moved, inspired – driven even – to create a major piece of work in celebration of the new millennium. When he chose ‘Movement’ as the umbrella title for these paintings he was inadvertently prescient. Why? Because around this time the Balkan/Yugoslav raged. And, as we know, where ever conflict exists there are refugees. Where ever there is conflict there are people on the move seeking sanctuary.
So as I toddled along reflecting on all this, I considered how apt that this performance take place in a town that is home to the Harbour Project, aiding refugees and asylum seekers and is Swindon City of Sanctuary. And I reflected too, how so so very fortunate I am – that I am not them. I reflected that, to coin a cliché – there but for the grace of God go I. Go you. Go all of us.
I’m not wholly a fan of T S Eliot – but I do think that his The Journey of the Magi conveys how difficult that journey was.
On the subject of the Harbour Project and Swindon as a city of sanctuary see also this post.