Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Beach Hut 24

The first ever Advent Beach Hut Calendar drew to a close in spectacular fashion tonight as something like 250 people turned up to celebrate Christmas Eve.

The theme was the wise men and their gifts - the hut decoration was gold, with frankincense burning outside and the opportunity to have a Christmas blessing and anointing with myrrh oil.

Above the hut we had our very own star shining and glittering to attract people from near and far.

We had three sets of wise men at the event, one was a series of images created by local artist, Annie Kemp, another a set of three sculptures from Poland and the third were three giant wise men who came from the East playing Christmas songs and carols.

The wise men on stilts were a local performing troupe called The Top Bananas and we all sang We Three Kings together. People continued to enjoy mulled wine and mince pies with the added luxury of hot roast chestnuts while many lined up to receive a Christmas blessing.

Thanks to all those who took part in this wonderful event and remember there's a chance to see a number of the huts open again at 3.30pm on Boxing Day.

May the God of light who came into the world at Christmas
bring you light and life.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Beach Hut 23

We had another peaceful, calm evening for the penultimate hut of this first ever Advent Beach Hut Calendar, so calm that the candles in hut 410 hardly flickered at all.

The theme for tonight was The Holly and the Ivy and the centrepiece was a beautiful display featuring holly, ivy, bay leaves and oranges which smelt as gorgeous as it looked. Karen finished off the design with numerous candles in lanterns, on the centrepiece and in a fantastically ornate candelabra.

While the children helped themselves to gingerbread biscuits and more and more people came to join in, we sang the theme carol after hearing a little background about these two plants and their association with Christmas. Everyone was invited to take a little posy featuring a candle set with some ivy or to help themselves to an orange.

Tomorrow is our final day as it Christmas Eve and should be quite a special evening at hut 395 including a chance to receive a Christmas blessing. A number of the huts will also open at 3.30pm on Boxing Day for a little recap for those who might not have been able to get to one of the evenings or who are visiting Brighton & Hove for Christmas.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Beach Hut 22

Yesterday was the Annunciation in churches across the country with the story of the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary and telling her that she is going to give birth to the son of God and it felt right to focus on Mary today. The carol we picked for this theme was Gentle Mary Laid Her Child which is not very common and is sung to the same tune as Good King Wenceslas.

Originally the hut was due to be decorated by a local artist but sadly her grandmother died last week and she is busy with the funeral this week so was unable to take part.

One of the local churches always runs a 'Blue Christmas' service at this time of year for those who find Christmas hard because they've lost loved ones or are on their own for some reason and so we combined the idea of Mary with the colour blue to create a very simple image for tonight.

Our thoughts are with Catherine and her family at this sad time.
Tomorrow - hut 410.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Beach Hut 21

O Come All Ye Faithful was the carol for this evening and come the faithful did despite there being a lot of competition tonight with many churches having carol services and the annual Burning of the Clocks procession attracting thousands to the centre of Brighton to celebrate the shortest day of the year.

Once again the news of the event has spread far and wide and we had visitors from Alfriston, Bexhill and Eastbourne as well as a number of local folk.

The biggest surprise of the night was an unannounced visit from the Mayor of Brighton & Hove who turned up with his wife and entourage en route to a carol service at one of the central Brighton churches.

Jan was displaying more of her paintings on the theme of adoration echoing the words of the chorus of the carol, including a beautiful tryptich of Christ, the one to whom we direct our adoration at Christmastime.

She also brought along a painting of the beach huts which she had done some time ago and which seems to suggest the same strange alignment of moon and stars that we saw on the very first night that we began this calendar.

Next hut is a little further towards the lagoon at number 382.

Beach Hut 20

We had a very musical evening at beach hut number 225 as the theme was The Little Drummer Boy complete with live music and a chance for everyone to participate. Matt and Colleen gave us some background information about the song and its relationship to Christmas and why rhythm is so basic to all cultures before David and Jake got us all involved in a live version complete with the children joining in on various percussion instruments.

The hut featured our first Christmas tree which was all set up with lights and presents at its base and surrounded with candles and some drum themed decorations. It was great see so many people joining in with the singing and to have so many children running around enjoying themselves.

Next hut is number 315.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Beach Hut 19

As darkness drew in on the 19th day of our calendar, beach hut 268 was lit up by a giant neon cross which could not only be seen from the beach but also by all the cars driving along Hove Kingsway. This was the biggest hut opening we've had so far as local theatre company Copperdollar pulled out all the stops to create a fantastic Christmas celebration.

The cross came from Brighton light artist Andy Doig of and acted as a real beacon of light for all the activities planned by KT and her team. Another local artist called Jim Sanders had also installed three 8' high totem poles representing the three kings.

The hut itself (kindly loaned by Alex and Andy) was turned into a shrine complete with ghostly digital mirror and decorations of holly and ivy.

The evening featured a short performance by four members of the theatre company followed by everyone forming a long chain and being led on a trail around the totem poles and down to the beach. They also led us in singing the Wassail song and everyone was given a posy of holly to take home with them.

As evergreens, holly and ivy both symbolise eternal life while holly points us beyond Christmas to the events of Easter. The combination of celebration of Christmas and remembrance of sacrifice was very thought provoking in this Advent season.

Next hut - number 225.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Beach Hut 18

Art took centre stage in the hut tonight thanks to local artist Janette Tozer, the owner of number 315 and our 18th opening this month. Jan created a painting as the centrepiece of her display themed around We Three Kings.

The painting features Mary and the baby Jesus with the three kings worshipping them as they bring their gifts. The bright, vibrant colours looked beautiful in the candlelight which was scattered around the hut giving light to the other paintings laid out there.

As well as a number of paintings done by Jan there were also some icons up on the shelf at the back of the hut which were painted by a nun based in Shoreham who has been doing these all her life.

The local paper turned up to take some photographs tonight so watch for more Advent Beach Hut Calendar news.

The next hut is number 268 and is being prepared by a local theatre company and promises to be an exciting evening, see you there.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Beach Hut 17

The hut this evening was so taken over by the theme that it was hardly visible as a hut anymore. Helen created an enormous singing angel which completely dominated the front of the hut and was visible a long way up and down the beach front due to the flashing lights on its halo which stood high above the roof.

As the music of Hark the Herald Angels sang out, the many children that came could feast on angel themed cakes while the adults ate mince pies and kept themselves warm with mulled wine.

News of the Advent Beach Hut Calendar is spreading thanks to the power of radio and we had people along tonight who had heard about us in Kent as well as the furthest reaches of Sussex.

A select few got to take home a little homemade angel of their own to keep as a souvenir of the night.

The next hut is almost next door to todays as it is number 315.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Beach Hut 16

There are no surprises for guessing the theme carol for tonight - a complete carpet of sheep made it fairly obvious that we would be singing While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night.

Hut 7 was decked out with the full shepherd experience as it not only had the sheep but two shepherds to look after them and an angel in the sky announcing the good news of Jesus birth.

Amanda and Diane had completely repainted the inside of her hut just for this event so that it was a fantastic deep blue nighttime colour and lined the floor with artificial grass to make the sheep feel at home.

There were even some little stone sheep to keep the doors open.

Of course we had to sing the carol with such a strong theme and we were lucky enough to have one of the family to play this and some other carols for us on her cello.

Folk from a variety of churches attended as well as a number who have just picked up leaflets or heard about it through friends or on the radio. Two Japanese visitors were here in Hove to learn English and we spent some time explaining what an Advent Calendar was and it is part of our tradition to have mince pies and mulled wine.

The next hut is back towards the lagoon at number 312.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Beach Hut 15

The beach huts in Brighton & Hove are all built to the same design and could be described simply as reasonable sized sheds on the beach (which is why popular website has kept track of each night on their site throughout December).

The similarity between a beach hut and the cattle shed in which Jesus was born has not gone unnoticed to a few of our hut owners and some have fully exploited this.

Eileen at hut 382 saw this potential early on and booked Away in Manger as her carol and gave us the full stable experience tonight, with a manger, the baby Jesus, Mary and even a donkey peering out from the back of the stable.

Sadly Mary, Joseph and Jesus didn't have mince pies and mulled wine to keep them warm as we did, but the wise men and the shepherds did bring them lots of other gifts to celebrate the holy birth.

The next hut is the furthest East of all the huts involved in the calendar as it's number 7.

Beach Hut 14

Tonight was the first night when it was actually raining as we opened hut 203 at 5.30 but the rain was fairly light and sporadic and it didn't deter people from turning up and we had a good number of visitors from Brighton & Hove, Sussex and London.

Clare and Angie had set up a star themed brazier blazing away with timber from the summer wreck which covered our beaches with wood for a few months.

As well as the mince pies and mulled wine they'd also baked special beach hut biscuits complete with their beach hut number. These were so nice some people were taking them home as souvenirs rather than eat them there and then.

The theme was Silent Night and the families connected with this hut were great at leading us in singing that and a few other carols during our hour at the beach.

The next hut is at the lagoon end and is number 382.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Beach Hut 13

Miraculously the storms and floods of earlier in the day abated about an hour before we were due to open Beach Hut 13 and 5.30 came around serene, dry and relatively warm compared to many nights we've been out at the beach so far.

The strong winds, rain and super high tide had left their mark on the seafront though, with pebbles strewn across the promenade even though the low tide waves were a long way away as we gathered around hut 425.

The theme was I Saw Three Ships although we would have been hard put to see any ships tonight with the weather being so wild. The ships theme along with the weather gave us a chance to meditate on the dangers that fishermen go through in the course of the daily work.

Continuing the travel theme we had visitors tonight from Cambridge to Australia and it was great to share a little with them about the storms and journeys we all undertake as we travel through life and the way God's angels accompany us on that journey.

Next hut is right in the middle of the seafront at number 203.