Friday, 25 December 2009

Beach Hut 24

We finally reached Christmas Eve and the end of our Advent pilgrimage with a spectacular 'high concept' installation courtesy of Jimmy Cauty, local artist, ex-KLF member and creator of ambient music.

The concept was that hut 234 contained the light of God in all it's awesomeness and holy majesty. Because this light is so blinding and amazing the hut doors could only be open a little, sending a beam of light across the seafront and out to sea.

Halfway through our hour together we listened to these words from John chapter 1:

In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Everyone was given glowsticks and we then broke these to create light and as a way of a acknowledging that Jesus, the light of the world, was born on that first Christmas.

The light made the hut very easy to find and hundreds of people turned up to celebrate Christmas Eve with us. Even though we had double the amount of mulled wine and mince pies we still ran out halfway through and reckon that over 300 people visited us during the event.

People kept asking if more was going to happen or if we were going to sing something together and there was a great air of expectation about the whole evening. This is what Advent is all about - hopeful waiting for God to act, though we never know exactly what that action will be.

Thanks to all those who took part in the Beach Hut Advent Calendar this year and we pray that God's light will shine upon you this Christmas.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Beach Hut 23

Tonights hut was put together by two art students, Flo and Alice Ray and was a very high concept installation.

The theme carol was
Christians Awake! Salute the Happy Morn which is all about the gift of Jesus at Christmas and the gift theme was represented by a collection of silver wrapped presents arranged in a cross shape in the centre of hut 268.

Coloured lights were added to this in a seemingly random way but somehow managed to arrange themselves into the features of Jesus on the cross in a quite striking way. The whole effect managed to capture both Christmas and Easter in one piece of art.

Overall the weather this year has been much worse than last year which has made the whole event a bit more of an endurance test than we had imagined. Despite that there have been a number of people who have managed to collect a full set of stamps and a genuine little community has formed with all these regulars, so much so that when one person missed a few nights we all became quite concerned about him (he's now returned safe and sound).

On the other hand we have also had new visitors every day, largely because of all the great publicity we've received in both national and local papers. And of course there have been the fantastic huts every night showing off the brilliant creativity and spiritual insight of the people of Brighton & Hove.

The final hut is number 234 and is an installation concept and music courtesy of artist and musician Jimmy Cauty.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Beach Hut 22

It was a perfect night tonight with hardly a cloud in the sky and no wind so that the sea was a calm as a millpond. On top of that we had some spectacular natural effects as there were occasional flashes of lightning out to sky, a sky so clear you could see satellites passing overhead and three quite spectacular shooting stars in the hour we were out.

Elaine had created a host of angels and bells in her hut as her theme was Ding, Dong, Merrily on High. The children had also created some pavement art on this same theme and provided an area for more art to be produced throughout the evening.

The better weather brought out more people and we had good numbers tonight, including one of our initial regulars who had been missing for a week or so with a bad case of bronchitis. Quite a little community has formed through these weeks of pilrimage and we've been privileged to get to know a number of people as we've walked together toward Christmas.

Our penultimate hut this year is number 268.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Beach Hut 21

The weather finally got the better of us today because although the snow and ice had gone there was a stiff breeze blowing in directly from the sea which played havoc with the amazing paper angel that Annelies had created as the centrepiece of hut 227. The resulting angel-less display was still beautiful with a nativity scene set in the hay lit entirely by candle light. The weather also affected other things in Brighton as the annual Burning of the Clocks parade was cancelled, but we always come out come rain, snow or shine!

The carol was Joy to the World and some words from John chapter 1 were included in the display; 'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it'. That's how we felt as we defeated the dark night storm to create something uplifting and peaceful despite the raging winds.

Annelies has only recently returned from the Florence Biennale where she has been exhibiting her paintings which you can see on her website. We were also featured today on the Church of England online Advent Calendar entitled 'Why Are We Waiting'.

Next hut is 428.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Beach Hut 20

Tonights carol was possibly the most appropriate one we've had so far - See Amid the Winter Snow - and those who came down to the beach had to struggle though snow and extreme ice for the pleasure of seeing Karens hut. The ice along the seafront was treacherous as it has been tramped into an icerink like sheen which made it quite dangerous to walk anywhere except along a narrow strip close to the huts which was ice free.

Hut 410 was decked out all in white to match the snow theme and featured a beautiful little nativity scene set inside an enormous ornate lantern. Everything was watched over by a guardian angel looking down from on high.

Thanks to everyone who came out tonight when it was so cold and dangerous, but a special mention must go to the couple who left their grandparents and children having dinner in a restaurant in town, jumped in a taxi to come and see the hut and get their cards stamped and then got back in the same taxi to go back and finish their meal. That's dedication for you!

All along this year has felt like a journey that we are all making together travelling closer and closer to the birth of Christ at Christmas. We hope that the weather warms up enough to encourage some more people to come out on the last few steps of our pilgrimage to Christmas over the remaining few days.

The owner of the next hut has just returned from exhibiting at the Florence biennale and is number 227.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Beach hut 19

It's taken us to nearly 20 days into the Beach hut Advent Calendar to see our first nativity scene. The carol was Away in a Manger and Carrie and Lucy created a wonderful image of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus made from different coloured tissue paper to form a hut-size screen which was lit from behind with a lovely gentle light.

Alongside this wonderful hut was a table full of goodies to add to the mince pies and mulled wine. The only difficulty was that with the temperature being -8 degrees a lot of the cakes froze and turned into mini ice-creams!

Fortunately we did have a bit of winter warmth from a small wood burner although the ice underfoot meant we all got very cold feet no matter how close we got the fire.

We were accompanied by a beautiful new moon which combined with a very calm sea and low tide and snow covered beaches to make a gorgeous calm night.

The next hut is waiting to be unveiled beside the lagoon and is number 410.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Beach Hut 18

The Beach hut Advent Calendar opens come rain or shine and tonight was no different. Despite heavy snow in Brighton & Hove, Kirsty still decorated and opened up hut 19a and some hardy souls turned out to see the display, be warmed by the mulled wine and to get their cards stamped.

The theme carol was As With Gladness Men of Old, a carol about the wise men following the star, leading onward, beaming bright. So the design featured lots of beautiful but simple stars and some high tech UV lighting to show them off to best effect. It's amazing what you can do with a good idea and some paper folding!

Next hut is halfway towards Hove Lagoon at number 341.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Beach Hut 17

Tonights hut has been a long time in the making as a local children's home has been planning this for a while. To make sure that it was safe for them they had to do a risk assessment and have had all the children making angels and stars for the hut which were all hung on fishing line to make a wonderful hanging forest. The whole thing was offset with sparkly lights set into the hut ceiling.

To complete the angel theme they had created a full size gold angel who stood guard by the hut although the wind did it's very best to blow it over. Thankfully the weather did decide to mirror the theme carol which was It Came Upon the Midnight Clear and the sky was beautifully clear although there was a very cold wind blowing down from the north bringing snow for later in the evening.

Tomorrow Kirsty from the BEYOND planning team is putting together a special light show in hut 19a.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Beach Hut 16

It was the coldest night since the start of the Beach Hut Advent Calendar but at least it wasn't snowing as it was further north in the county. The cold suited the theme which was The Holy and the Ivy which always feels like a cosy winter scene offset by the deep greens and reds of the leaves and berries. Hut 357a was framed by garlands of holly and ivy and the whole hut was lit by candlelight which made it all feel very warm.

We're still being visited by a few hardy Advent pilgrims who are determined to give themselves the best chance of winning that night at the Hotel du Vin and have managed to collect a whole set of beach hut stamps to date. But we also get a fair number of new visitors each night and it's great to meet them and share a little about what we're doing and why there are so many people out on the beach in all weathers.

Next hut is being decorated by a local childrens home and is number 403.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Beach Hut 15

Tonight we had the privilege of meeting the three kings, beautifully realised by local artist Teresa on Anne-Marie's hut. People could see the wise men from afar as three very distinct characters mounted above the door of the hut which looked like a royal pavilion with it's swathes of red cloth and glittering decoration.

The wise men were not only beautifully painted but were ingeniously constructed as all the jewels on their crowns were made from wine gums. The children who came weren't tempted to try and get the sweets down as Anne-Marie had provided home baked cookies and flapjacks to keep everyone well fed.

We were also treated to some great entertainment as a jazz guitar duo and singer came along to play us various carols and Christmas songs including our theme carol for tonight, We Three Kings of Orient Are.

The next hut is number 357a.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Beach Hut 14

The hut decorators tonight are great at high concept installations and tonight was no exception. Last year they brought us the carpet of sheep for 'While Shepherds watched...' and this year they created a set of stairs to nowhere for 'Deck the Halls...'.
This re-creation of a hallway came complete with Christmas Tree, hall mirror and side table and had a magical feel, as though these stairs could actually take you somewhere and that hut 11 could be a doorway to another world.

There was also something about the red carpet that spoke of the imminent arrival of royalty - a very appropriate message for Advent which is all about expectation for the coming of the King of Kings at Christmas.

We all sang the theme carol together a few times during the evening, in between enjoying the mulled wine, mince pies and each others company.

Tomorrow we move from Hove Lawns to just the other side (west side) of the King Alfred for hut 195.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Beach hut 13

Tonight was the busiest night so far as it seemed that the publicity in the press yesterday really made a difference and a lot of people came down to see what was going on.

The 1st Hove Girls' Brigade did a great job not only creating a beautiful hut but providing a fantastic choir who entertained us throughout the hour with a range of carols including the featured one - In The Bleak Midwinter.

Fortunately the bleak midwinter rain of earlier in the day stopped for our hour on the beach and we had a beautiful clear, dry evening.

The centrepiece of tonights display was the first appearance of the baby Jesus so far in our Beach Hut Advent Calendar along with a shepherd, a wise man and some lambs and the question 'What Can I Give?'. The only response we can make to the gift of God at Christmas is to give our heart and this little scene stole many people's hearts tonight.

One of the reasons this event is so popular is that people like to be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas and someone commented tonight that amidst all the fake sentiment and naked commercialism of Christmas it was nice to come to something genuine and truthful.

We look forward to more truth tomorrow at hut number 11 right down by Hove Lawns.