Wednesday 26 March 2008


Last Friday, Winchester was transformed from a charming little cathedral town, into the setting for a three hour re-enactment of The Easter Story: the trial, crucifiction and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

With a fresh script written by writer and director, Philip Glassborow, the RADA trained actor Israel Oyelumade playing Jesus, a specially composed piece of music by Sir John Tavener plus other music, a cast of hundreds plus members of the army and their vehicles to emphasize the Roman Occupation, and all the backstage team and support units, it was bound be a spectacular experience.

Despite snow in the morning and a rainstorm right at the beginning, over 10,000 people turned up to watch the story unfold, starting at Oram's Arbour (Winchester's first Roman settlement), continuing outside the Law Courts, a procession following Jesus carrying his cross down the High Street and proceeding to the Cathedral, where Jesus and his two fellow companions were to be strung up on crosses set high above the main Cathedral entrance.

As a Christian, I was thrilled that this Passion was going to take place. My own church - Christ Church - was one of the many churches and organizations that were involved, and Winchester was buzzing with speculation days before the event.

On the Friday afternoon, I was in town and standing outside the cathedral, chatting to one of the organizers and looking with horror at the three crosses, with red tapes ready, fluttering menacingly in the wind, and black plastic bags over the tops of the crosses, like faceless heads. It really brought home to me just how disgracefully we had treated Jesus and it still surprises me that he so readily forgave us, that he came down to earth specifically to be crucified. In fact, the passion of The Easter Story interlinks abhorrence of his death with over-whelming joy at his resurrection. The Easter Story is a very nasty one but I am eternally grateful that Jesus was prepared to do that for ALL OF US.

Anyway, disliking cold or crowds or hours of hanging about, I thought I had been so clever in booking a window table for supper that evening for my husband and me at the new French Bistro, right opposite the Cathedral. At least we would be able to see the procession from our window and follow it into the Cathedral grounds and see the ending, which is the most moving part of all.

So, we set off about seven and headed for Oram's Arbour, hoping to catch the tail end of the action there but they had already moved on so we then went to the Law Courts. But it was absolutely jam-packed, so we walked further down, to the bottom section of the Law Courts. But, again, it was too crowded: there were hundreds of people tightly packed on all levels, listening intently to the exchange between Jesus and Pontius Pilate.

It was clear that many people had opted to stay in one place so that they would at least see some of the action close up so the High Street was already pretty packed, and we took to the side streets to reach our restaurant.

Talk about 'the best laid plans of mice and men'! The cathedral grounds were also filling up but from my window vantage point, I would be able to see the procession, with Jesus at the head, at roughly the same time that our meal would finish, by my calculations, so we could slide out and witness the end. BUT and it's a big BUT, the procession had entered the Cathedral grounds from another entrance and so we missed it!!!

Talk about being more than a little miffed!

However, a DVD has been promised of the whole proceedings and I shall buy a copy so we can watch it at home. And there are a number of websites with pictures and details so I've already had a taster of what I'll see and quite honestly, it did look spectacular.

Just google Winchester Passion if you'd like to learn more. You won't be disappointed.

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