Sunday, 24 December 2017

24th December 0 Hut 395

Christmas Eve is here along with our biggest crowd and a special piece of art in hut 395.  

The Beyond team always keep Christmas Eve for ourselves as we like to create some art as part of an evening schedule that includes carol singing, a reading and some prayers that all follows a similar theme.

The theme tonight was birth and new life as we are on the eve of Jesus' birthday.  The hut contained a large projection of an image of the expectant Mary beautifully rendered in a modern icon style. 

Through the wonders of modern technology we were able to see into her womb and watch an ultrasound of her baby as he wriggled and moved around. 

This image was surrounded with garlands of flowers and at the foot of the hut were hundreds of daffodil buds.  These were there to remind us of new life and everyone was encouraged to take a flower with them and put it in water as it will then burst into life tomorrow.

The whole thing was accompanied by a heartbeat soundtrack when we weren't singing carols.  All the carols we sang focussed on Jesus' birth and we read the account of his birth in the second chapter of the gospel of Luke.

This felt like a fitting climax to our tenth Beach Hut Advent Calendar as we look forward to the birth of Jesus tomorrow.  We wish you all a blessed Christmas and pray that you will experience the new life that comes from knowing Jesus.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

23rd December - Hut 367

The art installation in Hut 367 had been given a title by artist Louise Mabbs - No Cradle, No Cross - highlighting the fact that if Jesus had not been born then there wouldn't have been a crucifixion and salvation for the world.

The centre piece of the installation was a large cross which filled the back wall of the hut and which was made from old foil mince pie containers.  Throughout the month we have been collecting these as people have discarded them after eating the free mince pies we give out every night.  So in a way everyone has contributed to making this artwork.

In front of the 'mince pie cross' a wire bowl was hung and a torch shone on it in such a way that the shadow of the intricate design of the bowl was projected onto the back wall.  Then we could see that this contained the word 'peace' many times, woven into the wire that made up the shape.

This recognised that fact that at Jesus' birth the angels sang "peace on earth, goodwill to all" and that one of the names given to him in the Bible was Prince of Peace.

Either side of the hut, hung on the doors, was a set of gossamer pockets containing a series of interesting and unusual Christmas cards.

Many of these also bore a message of peace to the world. 

Our final hut tomorrow has become a bit of a tradition and is number 395, as it has been for most of the preceding years.

Friday, 22 December 2017

22nd December - Hut 296

There is benefit to simplicity and hut 296 showed us that tonight.  This Aspect of the Nativity was just the basic essentials of that scene - a baby wrapped in cloth and lying on a bale of straw. 

The baby was lit by a little spotlight and in the photographs of the hut the place where the baby lie was a pool of light with no baby in sight. 

Perhaps this is appropriate because of course Jesus isn't born until Christmas Day (although he has been present in other huts during the Beach Hut Advent Calendar).

Something that the people of two thousand years ago wouldn't have been able to understand was the wonder of electric candles which could be placed amongst the straw of the hut without setting everything on fire!

A simple star hung above everything highlighting the merest hint of a heavenly host of angels through a series of tiny angel wings suspended in space.

Tomorrow our penultimate hut is number 367.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

21st December - Hut 341

It was very calm and pretty warm on the seafront tonight given the time of year.  There was an air of peace and calm as it was a very low tide so the waves were quite quiet and there wasn't very much traffic noise from the road.

Hut 341 exuded that same sense of peace and calm as it was dressed all in blue providing a simple backdrop to a large star of wonder.  The star was made from hundreds of torn up pieces of coloured tissue paper, pasted to make a thin multi-coloured film.

The star was then lit from behind so that the colours shone out into the darkness.  The overall effect was like an abstract stained glass shape that hovered in mid-hut.

The hut was framed with garlands of ivy and other evergreen leaves which were intertwined with some fairy lights.

Somehow, even though we were outside, the evening felt cosy and this was helped by a fire pit and the chance to sit close to the flickering flames if you did feel cold at all.

This also connected us with another event in Brighton tonight - The Burning of the Clocks.  This involves a procession of homemade lanterns which are taken to the beach and thrown onto a bonfire.  This happens today as this is the winter solstice and the moment in the calendar when the days start getting longer again.

Tomorrow we're at hut 296.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

20th December - Hut 189

Hut 189 became a gallery tonight with an artwork, presented in the the same way that so many pieces of art are shown - on an artist's easel.  Simply mounted in the centre of the hut, the picture of the Madonna and child shone out in the darkness bringing light and colour to the Hove seafront.

From a distance the picture looked like a finely painted image but close up it became clear that this was a collage, skilfully created by artist Sarah Watson using torn up magazines as her medium.

The overall image was created by carefully choosing and applying fragments of coloured paper from different magazine photographs.  

In some cases bits of the original imagery could be seen and these helped to add detail  and texture to the final artwork.

Mary carefully cradled the infant Jesus onlooking intently into his face looking as though she was making a soothing sound to help him sleep or maybe singing a lullaby.

Jesus was clearly asleep, oblivious to his surroundings and at peace in his mother's arms.

Around the base of the installation were small twinkling stars, glowing brightly against the blue base swathed across the floor of the hut.  These reminded us of the halo of stars that often accompany images of the Madonna.

The installation included a celebratory soundtrack courtesy of hut owners Michelle and Eddie.

Our next hut is number 341

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

19th December - Brick Hut 1a

Tonight was the only time this year that we get to use one of the more luxurious brick built huts.  These have electricity and running water and are slightly more spacious than the simple wooden hut constructions that make up the vast majority of the beach huts along Hove seafront.

The facilities available allowed the Kidz Klub to go all out on the installation of technology and not only had Christmas lights but lasers as part of the installation.  

These lit up a pile of enormous gifts which surrounded and almost dwarfed the baby Jesus lying centre stage.

Ironically all these beautifully wrapped gift boxes were empty as a symbol of the emptiness of a purely commercial view of Christmas.

The true gift at Christmas is that of God himself in the form of the baby Jesus, a gift that transcends the glitter and glitz that makes up so much of this season of the year.

As if to emphasise this crass commercialisation of Christmas, a giant blow up/light up Santa lurked just around the corner from the hut, reminding us of the usual imagery associated with Christmas which so many seek to escape when they come to the Beach Hut Advent Calendar.

We were also blessed this evening by a choir of folk who had offered to come along and sing Christmas carols for the event.  They sang beautifully, as you would expect of a group who were used to singing in a church on a regular basis and really helped to add to the occasion.

In the midst of it all lay baby Jesus, serene and peaceful, untroubled by the gaudy, flashing lights and the false jollity of the blow up Santa, reminding us to think about the truth behind gift giving at this season of the year.

In this final week of advent beach huts we head to number 189 for our next installation.

Monday, 18 December 2017

18th December - Hut 362

One person from the nativity story has been missing up to now - the innkeeper.  Hut 362 redressed that balance by asking us to identify with the innkeeper who let the Holy Family stay in his stable where Jesus was born.

The innkeeper looked out from the door of his hostelry with a welcoming smile on his face.

Just to prove that this was a place of welcome and friendship there was a glittering heart above the door.

In the background, overlooking the whole scene, was a reminder of the end of the story of Jesus in the form of a colourful cross which was made of woven raffia.

Hanging beside this cross and in various other places around the hut, were small keys as a symbol of opening up to God and people who came to the hut were given a small key with a label on it saying "Each of us is an Innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus".

This same message was beautifully inscribed on a lightbox which was also part of the installation.

A big crowd turned up tonight as Bishop Hannington church was supporting this hut opening and they brought some musicians to help the evening with some carol singing.

Our next hut is one of the brick huts close to The View and is number 1a.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

17th December - Hut 437

Hut 437 is the furthest West of all the huts in the Beach Hut Advent Calendar and has been the location for some beautiful contemporary dance as part of the calendar over the past few years.  

The scene was set by an amazingly realistic painted backdrop of a train stop in a style reminiscent of the artist Edward Hopper.  It made the hut look as though it was a window into another world.

This imaginary world was inhabited by three modern day wise people (not just men!) who were dressed for travelling in a 1950's style.

They carried small suitcases with them and one of the Magi removed a bright shining ball from one of these and it became the focus of a weaving, haunting dance about travelling and the journey that was undertaken by these sages to find the baby Jesus.

All of us are on a journey of one kind or another.  We each travel from birth to death; we make journeys of understanding during our lives and many of us are on a spiritual journey.  The Beach Hut Advent Calendar is a journey itself as visitors travel to see each hut each night.

The dancers tonight reminded us of the Magi who travelled from the East as well as inviting us to think about our own journey.

The next hut is number 362 in the middle of the Hove seafront.