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.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Beach Hut 1a (brick)

O Come All Ye Faithful was the invitation to everyone who turned up at the brick built hut 1a tonight.

There has been some confusion about the brick built huts as they have a numbering system of their own which does not relate to the general sweep of the numbering of the wooden huts.  So hut 1a (brick) is nowhere near hut 1 or 2 but is actually somewhere around hut 195.  So given this confusion it was great that so many faithful followers of the Beach Hut Advent Calendar made it to the hut tonight.

One of the advantages of the brick built huts is that they have electricity and Janet, our artist for tonight, made full use of this by creating a video piece inspired by the work of Bill Viola.  The art involved a continuously looping video of a strange white robed figure walking away from us with arms outstretched, encouraging us to join in.

Leading up to the hut was a red carpet with the legend "O Come All Ye Faithful" embroidered on it.

There should be no confusion about how to find our next hut which is number 11, the furthest East of all the huts featured in this years calendar and right beside Hove Lawns.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Beach Hut 79a

'When a Child is Born' may not be a traditional Christmas carol but its' message of hope and light and the story of a child coming into the world is very appropriate for the season and is played a lot at this time of year.

The artist for this evening was Lucy and she took this theme and created an intensely personal installation in hut 79a featuring pictures of her own baby and her family arranged around a crib placed in the middle of a very minimal hut.

The doors of the hut flanking the cradle held lifesize sketches of the father and mother of the baby, looking down on the bed where the baby should be laying but which in fact held a message of peace for the world.

'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God'  was taken by some to be a message about the recent massacre in Paris.

Those who stepped into the hut were also treated to the sound of a baby laughing, making cooing noises and gurgling which made it feel as though there was a real infant presence in the hut somewhere.

Other sets of images included more quotations from the Bible including 'Truly I tell you, whoever does not received the kingdom of God like a little child will not enter it' and 'Jesus said let the little children come to me... the kingdom of God belongs to them'.

Our next hut is the second of the brick huts to be featured in this year's Beach Hut Advent Calendar and is number 1a, close to The View.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Beach Hut 437

Hut 437 tonight transported us to a magical woodland world, all contained within the tiny space of a beach hut.

There was no mistaking the theme of the Holly and the Ivy as the hut was festooned and framed with long branches of ivy and berry filled sprigs of holly.

In the middle of the back wall of the hut was a huge wreath of foliage interwoven with a set of red Christmas lights.  Within this, as though looking through a window into another world, was a scene of distant winter wood, with a deer seemingly looking back at us, wondering about the crowds gathering around the hut.

But the best part of this evening was that, gorgeous as it was, this turned out to be simply the backdrop to a series of performances.  The hut owner, Korina, is a dancer and she teamed up with her friend Millie and the musician Alan Mars to create a magical show for us.  Contemporary dance mixed with harp music, singing and poetry to create a mesmerising event which was both inspiring, moving and uplifting.

They performed this three times during the hour that the hut was open and as well as being entranced by the beauty of the whole experience, we learnt a great deal about the connection of holly and ivy with the Christmas story and the Christian symbolism embedded in this.

For this precious hour it felt as though we had been transported to a place connected to nature and to God and that this hut offered us a window into another world.

The next hut features artist Lucy Lauener and is close to Hove Lawns at hut 79a.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Beach Hut 362

The carol at hut 362 was Joy to the World and the children who came from Aldrington school were determined to be joyful come rain or shine.  Unfortunately it was rain, and more rain, and wind, and more rain.... definitely the wettest night we've had so far this year, but this didn't dampen the spirits of those who came out.  Umbrellas were much in evidence as were wellington boots, waterproof jackets and hats.

The children were irrepressible and there was a real buzz of excited chatter as they gathered around the hut at 5.30 and began to sing.  We had a medley of a number of different carols and of course Joy to the World was in amongst all the others.  Parents were also on hand to help protect their offspring from the elements and Laura, who organised the whole thing, rewarded every child with a chocolate lolly.  We think this might be the first time that a hut in this unique advent calendar dispensed chocolate, just like so many of the domestic advent calendars.

The installation included a large papier mache world with JOY firmly planted on the North Pole.  Above this was a golden crown, reflecting the second line of the song which is 'let earth receive her king'.

The whole inside of the hut was blacked out so that it felt as though the earth was floating in space and dotted around were golden angels, floating and flying in the starlit sky.

They were accompanied by glittering musical notes, a visual symbol of the song of praise the angels sang to welcome the Christ child to earth.

We're hoping for better weather tomorrow at hut 437 as we have been promised some dancing from hut owner Korina.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Beach Hut 19a (brick)

In the middle of the run of regular beach huts there is a short stretch of very different huts, very unlike the wooden shed style constructions that make up the majority of the Hove seafront.  These are the brick huts with metal doors that stretch either side of The View bar.  They are much more substantial than the normal huts, although they are about the same size inside, but they boast a level of amenities unheard of in a wooden hut.  The main advantage is that they have electricity and running water with a sink, pure luxury.

For the first six years this level of sophistication was unknown to the Beach Hut Advent Calendar but last year we had our first experience of a brick hut and this year we have two, hut 19a tonight and hut 1a on Sunday night.

Tonight the hut was taken over by Jane and her co-workers at MacMillan Cancer Support and the green of their banner perfectly matched the green decor of the hut.  The carol was Ding Dong Merrily on High and so there were bells hanging from the ceiling and a golden bell as the centrepiece on the table outside.

Attendees were invited to tie a ribbon on the tree of light perhaps in memory of someone who had died of cancer, perhaps as a reminder of those who might be struggling with this now.

A number of the recipients of help from the charity came to see the hut and were able to sit outside, wrapped warmly in blankets, to enjoy the mulled wine and mince pies and sing along with the carol.

Jane described the hut decoration as 'Christmas Kitsch' with the garish colours, bright decorations and even the odd icon and religious painting thrown in for good measure.

The weather stayed mild and dry and the wind was quite gentle tonight which helped the atmosphere of calm and peace.

So if you want to see another brick hut come along to nunber 1a on Sunday night.  The next hut on our calendar will be number 362, up towards Hove Lagoon.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Beach Hut 264

It definitely felt like we were In A Bleak Midwinter this evening as the rain poured down and the wind howled around Hut 264.  The worst weather was immediately before the official opening at 5.30pm when it rained really hard and actually between 5.30pm and 6.30pm the elements did calm down quite a bit and in particular the rain abated, but by then those of us already there were completely soaked.

The hut was decorated by the Brownies troop from the Good Shepherd church on Dyke road.  Each of the Brownies had made a cardboard angle which hung from a mobile in the middle of the hut.  Unfortunately the wind blew this around so much that they all got tangled up.

The bleak winter included a couple of cute white lambs in a snowy landscape and there was someone on hand to add artificial snow at periodic moments throughout the evening.

The whole installation was overlooked by a silhouette of the Holy Family in their stable.

The next hut is one of the luxurious, brick built huts which are not only more subtantial than the regular wooden shed-like huts but also had electricity.  Hut number 19a will not only feature Ding, dong, merrily on high but will also have a focus on the Macmillan charity.