Could this be the first Blueskin Arts Festival?
by Laurence Hay
A series of events held recently on six Wednesday evenings at St
Barnabas's church, Warrington, developed into a mini-arts festival as
local people pooled their skills and interests to prepare hearts and
minds for Good Friday and the celebration of Easter.
The series began with the traditional Ash Wednesday liturgical
service. However, the format was far from traditional as the people
moved outside the church to stand in the graveyard and be reminded of
their continuity with those who had established and built the
community we now enjoy. A palm cross was burnt and, after moving back
into the church, those who wished it received on their foreheads the
ash mark of repentance and humility for the start of Lent.
The next Wednesday event focused on verse with most of those present
bringing and reading a poem or a passage from the Bible, and
explaining why it was meaningful to them. The third gathering, when
favourite pictures and other art objects were shown, was introduced by
Jennifer Hopkinson suggesting ways to look at paintings, using works
by Otago artists as examples. The next Wednesday evening was devoted
to singing, with Alastair Wright on the organ illustrating hymns and
songs for the season, and then everyone singing people's chosen
favourites. The evening ended with the playing of an excerpt from
Bach's St Matthew Passion.
The fifth event, focusing on drama, involved many people reading
dramatic poems, or short plays. But the highlight was a number of
excerpts from Shakespeare's King Lear, with Vance Vidal in a
soul-piercing performance as the foolish king grieving over the body
of his loving daughter, and at last finding wisdom through suffering
Finally, on the Wednesday before Holy Week we participated in a
reflective service based around the great passage from the book of
Isaiah, chapter 53, in which the prophet speaks of the Suffering
Servant as the one who can bring forgiveness and meaning to people's
lives. A work by the black American poet James Weldon Johnson
recalling the events of the Crucifixion was presented, and the service
ended with a strong rendition, in Maori and English, of the anthem How
Great Thou Art.
The initiative for this series was taken by Margaret Hay, but its
success was due to the enthusiasm and participation of the 20 or so
people who attended week by week. This was not an arts festival, but
it did demonstrate – if any demonstration is needed – the depth of
talent and interest in the arts that exists in our community. A
Blueskin Arts Festival next year?