Saturday, 24 December 2011

Beach Hut 24

We finally got there! Although of course the actual event we've all been waiting for throughout December isn't until tomorrow, but we did get to the final beach hut tonight. Hut 225 was a real coming together of all of the things we've been talking about this month as we make our journey with the holy family towards Christmas.

For the first time all of the nativity figures which Flo Pepper has so diligently crafted were brought together in their own stable. Each figure was featured at one of the huts through the month and gradually added to the story that we followed day by day.

They were watched over by a collage of faces made up of photographs taken each night of some of the pilgrims who've followed the story night by night. Old and young all looked down on the stable, waiting to see what would happen tomorrow when God enters our world as a little baby. Central to the whole collage was a photo of a pregnant woman who came along one night and who's baby is due on Christmas day - we wish her well for the auspicious day.

As part of the event tonight we read the Christmas story, stopping at various points to sing an appropriate carol - O Little Town of Bethlehem for Joseph and Mary's journey; Away in a Manger at Jesus Birth; We Three Kings when the wise men arrived and finally the Sussex Carol, celebrating everything that this night means as God enters our human world.

We hope that your Christmas gathering is full of joy, hope and peace and that you experience something of what it means that God is with us. Every blessing this Christmas from all at Beyond.

Our next event will be in late in February for Lent 2012 - watch for announcements.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Beach Hut 23

The penultimate hut of 2011 directed our eyes to the skies with an amazingly detailed map of the heavens with stars and constellations labelled and drawn out for us all to see. Unfortunately the weather didn't aid our stargazing as the clouds scudded by propelled by some very strong winds, only stopping to drop copious amounts of rain on us from time to time.

Hut 449 was bathed in a beautiful royal purple light in honour of the coming king and as a reminder that this is still Advent, the season for which the church uses the colour purple. In fact the light was ultraviolet and was designed to make the white stars and constellations shine out into the darkness. One of the odd side effects of this was that it was very hard to see the images properly - they appeared to be out of focus no matter how hard we tried to look at them and bring them in to focus.

Even the photographs we took seemed to have trouble focussing on the star imagery, creating some lovely, colourful effects.

Lots of people had fun trying to decide which of these was the star of Bethlehem and even though Jon, the creator of the hut, knew which star he had nominated for that role, he kept this information to himself and let everyone spend their time star -gazing and guessing.

Our final hut is number 225 and for the first time we will bring together all the characters that we have been focussing on during our journey through Advent to form a unique Beyond nativity scene. The theme will be 'Gathering for the Great Event' and we will be creating a host of witnesses from photographs taken of some of the participants each night as well as welcoming a crowd of people and a live donkey to join in with our retelling of the Christmas story and singing of carols together to celebrate.

Beach Hut 22

As we get closer to the big event on Christmas day we are beginning to gather more of a crowd in our nativity themes. Tonight the theme was angel choirs and Janette had created a special painting for this which was installed in hut 374 along with some other paintings by local artists.

This included another painting by Janette entitled 'heaven' which was done in the style of Klimt. There is an obvious connection between angels and heaven and so it felt appropriate to have these paintings alongside each other.

Above all this was an icon painted by Sister Gillian who is a nun based at an order in Shoreham who is still painting icons even though she's now in her eighties.

Our penultimate hut opens on 23rd and is the furthest west of all the huts involved in the beach hut advent calendar and is number 449.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Beach Hut 21

Tonight we were back with the shepherds who haven't featured in our Christmas journey since beach hut 6 although their sheep did make an appearance on day 14.

Karen had combined the delight of the shepherds at Bethlehem on that first Christmas with the old saying that we use to help us predict the weather - 'red sky at night, shepherds delight'. It's nice to think that the sky above the stable that night could have reflected their joy at this happy event as well as sparkling with the choirs of angels.

The hut was a little mysterious tonight as there were black drapes hanging down at the front but peeping through these could be seen an idyllic little scene with the shepherds staring up at the red sky alongside a giant (to them) storybook of the Christmas event.

Above this, on the front of the hut was a herald angel, guiding the shepherds to the manger.

The piece that we filmed with the BBC wasn't on broadcast on Wednesday and we're told it's being held over for Christmas Day and will be on BBC Breakfast sometime between 8am and 9am.

In the meantime, make a note of our next hut which is number 374.

Beach Hut 20

Carry Rawle the owner of Hut 20 has had her own theme for her artwork each year she's been involved in the Beach Hut Advent Calendar as well as fitting in with our journey telling the Christmas story. Each year she has produced a beautiful piece of art made from tissue paper to form a kind of stained glass window. This is then lit from behind to produce a striking effect as the whole hut seems to glow with the colours of the art.

The theme for tonight was gold as we continue to look at the wise men and their part in the Christmas story. Carry dressed her hut with gold tinsel and produced a beach hut sized tree topped with a gold star to illustrate this.

The evening was calm and dry and the whole event had a cosy feel to it as there was a brazier burning away and chairs gathered round so people could sit and keep warm as they drank their mulled wine and chatted about Christmas.

The next hut is 410 up by Hove lagoon.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Beach Hut 19

Today was the day the BBC decided to come back to the Brighton seafront to film a few huts ready for broadcast later this week so of course the weather was terrible and it rained all afternoon the whole time they were here. The piece should be broadcast nationally on BBC Breakfast this Wednesday or Thursday.

Ironically the rain stopped about 6pm which encouraged people to come out to see hut 425 turning what could have been a washout into quite a successful evening.

The theme for tonight continued to focus on the wise men as we have been for the last few days. The hut was full of gifts piled up in front of a manger with a quote from the gospel of John posted up above it all. While we all know that the wise men brought gifts to the stable to give to Jesus, we sometimes forget that Jesus himself was a gift from God.

The next hut is number 341 when we'll be looking at one particular gift - Gold.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Beach Hut 18

Tonight was a bit special as one of the Beyond team produced an amazing work of artistic genius in hut 424. Kirsty Tyler has an imagination which is only surpassed by her craft skills and she put these both to work using the simplest of materials - cardboard. In her nimble hands this staple of the recycling bin became the most gorgeous animated scene reminiscent of the puppet theatres so prevalent on English beaches in the past.

The theme was the wise men and Kirsty combined this with the myth contained in the song I Saw Three Ships to imagine the wise men arriving at a nativity scene set on Brighton Pier. This in itself would have made for an interesting artwork but this installation went beyond that as the boat and the waves all moved, rocking backwards and forwards as though driven by the wind which mercifully was absent this evening.

The detail in the modelling was unbelievable with each of the wise men carrying individual gifts for the baby Jesus who lay in a straw lined manger wrapped in swaddling clothes. The whole thing had it's own internal lighting and was powered by hidden motors which were engineered and fixed in place by Tony Leaney.

There was almost a disaster when it started to rain just before the official opening at 5.30 - as you can imagine cardboard doesn't respond well to rain - but the team were able to protect everything while the unexpected shower passed over and the rest of the evening stayed dry.

After tonight the scene will make it's way to St. Luke's church, Prestonville where it will be on display Christmas morning during the family service at 10.30am.

The evening included live music, provided by Dave Tyler and friends Jim and Maggs, and everyone got to join in with songsheets being handed out alongside the mulled wine and mince pies.

The next hut is right alongside this at number 425 and will look in more detail at the gifts the wise men brought.

Beach Hut 17

Hut 177 took us back to our Mexican beginnings which was very appropriate for the family who owned the hut as they will be spending Christmas in Mexico.

Their theme for tonight was the donkey and so the centrepiece of the evening was a donkey pinata along with Mexican hammock and decorations including decorated skulls which is part of another Mexican tradition around the same time as our Halloween when they remember their dead loved ones and celebrate with them.

The night was cold but calm and was helped with the addition of a burning brazier which people were able to huddle around along with their mulled wine and mince pies.

The highlight of the evening for the children was the chance to line up and have a go at bashing the pinata to see if they could get some of the sweets packed inside it. By the end of the evening the poor little donkey was looking a bit worse for wear but had served it's purpose well.

Most of the rest of the huts are up by Hove Lagoon and the next one is hut 424 which promises to be an amazing creation from one of the Beyond team.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Beach Hut 16

We have had a host of angels over the last week because in the Christmas story angels crop up a number of times and hut 195 was no exception as we turned up to see Anne-Marie's interpretation of this theme.

The decoration outside the hut almost outshone the inside as it featured two large herald angels and a golden centrepiece. Inside we were presented with a simple little stable underneath an enormous guiding star. Everything was set off by a rich red backdrop with yet more angels silhouetted in the sky above the scene.

The evening was calm, clear and cold, quite a contrast to some of the evenings we've had so far but hopefully a sign of the weather to come as we head in to our last week of huts and our final gathering on Christmas Eve.

Throughout our journey towards Christmas we've been collecting photographs of some of the faces who have come to see the installations and on Christmas Eve we plan to collage these all together to form our own heavenly host of those who have joined us on this Christmas pilgrimage this year.

Hut 177 will be your next chance to join in with this - come and have your photo taken so you can join our heavenly throng.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Beach Hut 15

Tonight we got our first hint that the wise men were on their way. Hut 11 featured a desert landscape with two camels winding their way through the hills towards a special star shining in the east.

Although we always talk about there being three kings, actually the Bible doesn't say how many there were and it is just assumed because they brought three gifts. We'll be hearing more about the gifts later in the advent calendar.

Amanda and Brian put this hut together - they have developed a reputation for creative ideas with their hut during the beach hut advent calendar. They particularly seem to like covering the floor having carpeted it with cotton wool sheep and creating a set of stairs in our previous calendars. Tonight it was covered in quite a few bags of sand which will make it's way to the beach sometime soon.

This is the last hut by Hove Lawns as all the rest of our huts are East of the King Alfred leisure centre. The next hut is number 195.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Beach Hut 14

Sheep were much in evidence tonight as this was the theme as we draw closer to the birth of Jesus.

John & Mandy Taylor and friends had produced a number of knitted sheep who were hung around the hut as though grazing across the hills. Mandy had actually been out onto the Sussex Downs and photographed sheep so that she could accurately portray them in her hut, and each image was based upon an actual sheep. A group of friends then knitted squares from a variety of different types of wool which were assembled into the final wooly portraits.

There were a few quotations added to the installation and during the evening these were added to with spoken words by Catriona who had written some poems which she also performed from inside the hut as everyone crowded round to hear.

Tonight we not only had a stiff wind to contend with but also some major thunderstorms flashing away out to sea although fortunately none of these came to shore to bother us.

This was just as well because halfway through the proceedings, local all-female Morris dancing troupe, Cuckoos Nest performed for us. Avoiding the pebbles which had been washed up onto the prom by the previous nights storm, they did four dances for us, including two which involved quite violent stick wielding, made all the more impressive because it was so dark that they must have had trouble seeing clearly.

The next hut is by Hove Lawns just like tonight's and is number 11 (NOT 399 as appeared on some of the publicity in error).