Category Archives: reviews

My Thoughts on the Youthwork Summit 2013

336x280_1

 

A few weeks ago I attended the 4th Youthwork Summit, this year in West Bromich. If you’ve never heard of the youthwork summit click here for more info.

This is the 3rd Summit I’ve been to and my expectations were high, not least because we travelled to Scotland on Friday night to drop our son off before heading down to Birmingham and then had to leave the event early on the Saturday to return to Scotland to pick up said son. The two previous Summits I attended were both engaging and dymanic and on both occasions I came away with a head full of thoughts and ideas.

I say all of this because I want to make it clear how much baggage I brought to the event. We had sacrificed a lot of time and mileage to attend. And I guess its a way of me explaining why I found this years one a little, well…underwhelming.

It’s taken me a few weeks of thinking and talking to work out exactly why I left the event rather disappointed and I want to share that with you now. I’ll outline what I liked and didn’t like about each of the sessions and then give a brief summary at the end. These are just my own opinions and as I’ve made clear above, they are subjective. There are many factors that contribute to how someone evaluates an event and the fact that we travelled so far to get there does play a part in that.

103646ea58bff70ed31a1776ba6efefd

Session 1

What was clear from the start was that Martin Saunders, Matt Summerfield and Chris Curtis (the organisers) wanted more of a flow to the event talks and they achieved this. In previous years the talks have felt more disjointed but this year each talk was connected to the one before. For me, by doing this it meant that many of the talks seemed to repeat themselves. What I loved about the Summit in Manchester was that you didn’t know what would be said from each talk to the next. It was a wild flurry of ideas. It hurt my brain but I loved it. I didn’t feel that this year.

Highlights in the first session “He is Greater” were ‘apologetic for the apathetic’ by Ruth McGarahan and ‘Disrupting Chaos’ by Dr Kate Middleton. Both of these talks had something important to say and they were both full of information and practical advice. Ruth explained how important it is that our youth work seeks to unlock the head issues to that people can open their hearts and to keep asking questions as they make people think, get rid of assumptions, expose faulty logic, expose motivesand  show we care. She left us with the a challenge from 1 Peter 3:5: Does the kind of life we are living provoke people to ask questions? “The gospel should be simple enough for a child to understand but deep enough for scholar to spend their life discussing”.

Dr Middeton shared how as teenagers are literally learning who they are through their teenage years, they can appear to be completely different people from one day to the next. She also made us aware that young people struggle to think about the consequences to their actions and so there is a need to communicate with teenagers in a very different way.

Both of the speakers used their ten minutes to communicate a number of ideas and it didn’t feel repetitive. I also thoroughly enjoyed ‘Slam Theology’ by Conrad Gempf and Harry Baker as it was something fresh and unique in an event which became increasingly stale as it went on. A mash up of theology and poetry that was challenging and inspiring.

It seemed odd to me to get the futurist Dr Patrick Dixon to talk about ‘future proofing your youth work‘ instead of actually talking about future technology and what we should be aware of (although his powerpoint was very good), ‘Let Muslims change you’ by Tim Fawssett was good but nothing I haven’t heard before and ‘Broken Sex’ by Beth Stout felt a bit like a re-run of Ruth Cordon’s talk from last year.

The talk I was most looking forward to in session 1, Dr Maureen Funkle talking about why ‘Harry Potter is Evil’, turned out to be a joke talk and I was quite angry about that. The last two Summits had talks that I strongly disagreed with and they provoked me to think. What concerned me this year was that I didn’t disagree with what anyone said. The voices were all from the same ‘pot’ and there was nothing particularly controversial from either side of the theological or cultural spectrum.

ConradHarryB

Session 2

Session 2 “You will do greater things” started brilliantly with more ‘slam theology’ and was the most consistent in terms of its quality of talks. Dave Sharples heartfelt speech about ‘meet the parents’ brought a lump to my throat and Oliver Wests talk about ‘how the other half learn’ was interesting but was frustratingly short and I don’t think he really had the time to communicate what he needed to. It was also ironic that his talk was on visual thinkers and the video didn’t work.

Camila Batmanghelidjh talked about ‘hope in the inner city’ and the power that love has on the brain. It felt like she waffled a little but her talk was inspiring and gave practical evidence to the power of good that the concept of God can have on the brain. “The greatest gift you can show a person is your ability to love” Amen.  ‘Growing up Poor’ by Lille Jenkins took a little while to get going but the lunch charity is an incredible project.

Sadly the session ended on a whimper with ‘your youth group can raise Lazarus’ by Lydia Corbett. I believe miracles can happen and that we should expect them and clearly God is doing some incredible things through her youth work but I found her talk to be a little naive as it didn’t address the issue of what happens when a miracle doesn’t happen? What happens when someone’s gran gets healed but then someone else’s gran doesn’t? We need to manage expectations and help our young people grapple with these issues but I felt Lydia’s talk was too simplistic.

Session 3

The next session was titled “the takeover” and consisted of young people leading, speaking and singing. I’m not going to evaluate this session as I don’t think that’s right but what I will say is that the presenter of this session, who I think was 24 so not technically a young person, came from, what I title as, the patronising youth work factory.Now that probably seems rather judgemental and I’ll take that because it is. One of my ‘buttons’, the things that really anger me is when it appears that youth workers are talking down to young people. Now this youth worker probably wasn’t doing that but it definitely appeared that way to me.

yws13_143

Session 4

“He must become greater” was the final session I was able to attend (I’ll watch the videos I missed online once they’re up) and again the talks were pretty inconsistent.

Jill Garrett’s talk on “Followship” really puzzled me. It was billed as a talk about being a good follower but it seemed to me that it was really a talk about what a good leader should be like and how a leader should manager their ‘followers’ so it was really a talk on leadership. Again maybe it’s just me.

I’d pretty much heard the talk ‘Faith in Crisis’ by Gavin and Anne Calver before but it was still engaging. Less could be said, and will be, about ‘Dealing with your dark side’ by Rachael Costa. I found the talk lifeless and, at times, bordering on parody. She didn’t really appear to know what she was talking about and just kept talking until the time was up. As founder of Think Twice I believe rachael has some important things to say but none of them were said in this talk.

‘Prayer without ceasing’ by Celia Apeagyei-Collins wins the award for most awkward moment at the Summit when she asked people to pray for Satan to come. It was a lively and passionate talk but I left without any real practical application.

Unfortunately we left during Danny Curtin’s talk on ‘it’s not your ministry anyway’ as our little girl was fed up so I’ll review that when I see the videos later.

Summary

Reading back over this post, I do appear to be incredibly negative about the summit this year. I still think it’s a great event but the format may becoming a little stale. Or it may be that the ideas around the talks have become a little stale. The concept comes from TED talks where people are given ten minutes to give the talk of their lives. Out of the 14 talks I heard, I’d only consider three of them to meet that standard. There seemed to be a lot of filler which is odd when people only get ten minutes.

The organisers wanted more theology in the event and that was partly successful but the problem was that the theology that was spoken about was very shallow. There wasn’t much depth to the talks or to the ideas being presented. Much of what was said seemed almost superficial.

The best talk at the event that had a good depth of theology wasn’t even in the main session. Conrad Gempf talking about his new book about Paul, during one of the afternoon breaks was engaging and challenging and highlighted what was missing from the main sessions.

Also, I felt there wasn’t much engagement with culture. Film, music, drama, art, design, sport. Young people are immersed in this culture and no one really talked much about it.

Again, these are just the thoughts of one person and there is no doubt that I’ll attend the next event (especially since it’s half an hour from my house) but I want more than I got this year. I want to grapple more. I want to disagree more. I want to hear from the best that youth work has to offer.

Were you at youthwork summit this year? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

My Initial Thoughts on ‘The Cabin In The Woods’

Last night, I saw a preview of the horror film, “The Cabin In The Woods” with fellow reel faith contributor Marc Williamson. It’s a film I was intrigued to see as the trailer sets up all sorts of WTF moments and it has been compared to “the Truman Show” and “Scream” in its task of trying to subvert and breathe fresh life into the slasher genre of horror.

As a film, I think it’s patchy. Story and twists takes centre stage at the expense of engaging characters and ‘heart’. It’s all a bit too ‘intellectual’ and you miss having a grounded character that you can empathise with.

But the film has stayed with me because although it fails on being a coherent and satisfying movie, it wrestles with so many themes in its short running time.

If you haven’t seen it and intend to I would suggest you read no further as there are detailed spoilers before.

The main crux of the film is this. There are Gods under the earth. Gods from the old world. And they are angry Gods that need to be subdued. The only way to do this is through ritual sacrifice. But the Gods are sick of the old ‘put a person on a table and cut them open’. They want spectacle. They crave entertainment. And so a ‘company’ is set up to provide entertainment by killing young people in horror movie conventions. The story then follows a group of five young people as they go to a cabin in the woods and become sacrifices to the Gods. The company personnel orchestrate the events so that they play out like a typical slasher film (eg have the characters become slasher movie archetypes: the jock, the whore, the geek etc) All over the world different horror scenarios are set up to offer sacrifices to the Gods (we see a group of Japanese children being terrorised by a vengeful female ghost with hair covering her face).

So the film deals with a whole host of themes such as free will, sacrifice, murder, meta-narratives, truth, reality, redemptive violence, horror films, entertainment and I’ll hopefully put together a few different group resources over the next few weeks dealing with some of these as I think this is a film ripe for discussion.

This is definitely one to watch.

Tucker and Dale VS Judging Others


I had the great opportunity to watch the film ‘Tucker and Dale VS Evil‘ on Netflix yesterday.

It was a witty, sardonic and subversive love letter to the horror genre.

It also has a whole host of themes that would be worth exploring with a youth group (who are all at least 15 and don’t mind a bit of gore)

*******SPOILERS********

The main crux of the film is that a group of college students mistake Tucker and Dale as two redneck killers.  Through a series of misunderstandings, they believe that the hillbillies are trying to ‘off’ them.

Who are the kinds of people we judge? And what do we judge them for? Is it their clothes, their background, their language, their behaviours?

Let me say first that there’s nothing wrong with making judgements of people. The writers of the bible aren’t against it.

 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others,

you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matt 7:1-2)

This is probably the most famous verse on judging in the bible. But Jesus isn’t saying do not judge people. He’s saying that you should be careful if you do because God will judge you in the same way. We naturally make judgements about people but what is more important is what we do with those judgements. Do we use those judgements to exclude and marginalise people? Or do we make those judgements to include and help?

A few verses later Jesus says this:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matt 7:7)

I know we often relate this to asking and seeking God for things but I wonder if we can push it a little further and connect it with the idea of judging.

In the film, the college students judge the two hillbillies incorrectly. They then view the hillbillies through their ‘judgement lens’ and see every action in the light of that judgement. When one of the college girls falls off into the water, hitting her head in the process, the hillbillies drag her out of the water and attempt to give her mouth to mouth. One of the college boys sees this and thinks that the hillbillies are eating her face.

What the college students seek; they find. They believe these guys are killers and that’s exactly what they find. Their judgement comes back on them.

I think that’s a great ‘truth’ in our world and one that we have to be very careful not to fall into the trap of. If we act on our judgements in negative ways then a door will be opened for us. And we will find what we sought. It just might not be a good thing.

My Top 10 Films of 2011

Well it’s that time again, where I scan through the films that I have seen this year and decide which ones rocked my world. As a sometime-filmmaker myself, often the films that I love are ones that inspire me to make films so my list is sometimes different from other.

But enough gabbing, here’s the list:

1) Rise of the Planet of the Apes

2) We need to talk about Kevin

3) True Grit

4) Drive

5) X-men: First Class

6) Black Swan

7) The Inbetweeners

8) The Kings Speech

9) Red, White and Blue

10) 50/50

The films that almost made it:

The Guard, Warrior, Crazy Stupid Love, Paranormal Activity 3, Stakeland, Jackass 3D and Source Code

And films that I didn’t get to see this year but might be on next years list:

Hugo, , the Artist.

So, what do you think? What’s your top 10 of the year?

How to get your kids through church without them hating God: Part 3

On Wednesday 2nd November I attended the “how to get your kids through church without them hating God” tour organised by Rob Parsons and ‘Care for the Family’.

Read part 1 here

Read part 2 here

In the final session of the evening, Rob spoke about the three disappointments that we need to prepare young people for in order that they don’t give up on their faith and walk away from God.

1) with others

2) with themselves

3) with God

the first two are self explanatory. sometimes we can be guilty of painting a false and idealistic picture of Christianity. None of us are perfect. People will let us down and we will let ourselves down. we won’t always get it right as following Christ is not easy. We need to help young people be ready for when the inevitable happens: when other Christians hurt them. Talk about grace. Talk about God’s grace for us and the grace we need to show others.

The 3rd one is more tricky. I compared a Q&A session with our youth fellowship earlier this year. The young people had the opportunity to ask a panel of ‘mature’ christians (2 of the YF leadership and 2 deacons) a series of awkward questions about faith. One of the questions was, “does God always answer prayer?”. Without hesitation, they all answered “yes” with “but sometimes not in the way we want”.

But that doesn’t cut it for me. And clearly it doesn’t for Rob Parsons either. When I prayed that my gran wouldn’t die of cancer, God didn’t deliver. How ever you wrap that up, the prayer wasn’t successful. God will disappoint young people.

Yes we can say, “well it wasn’t God’s will” or we can talk about “sin” and “spiritual forces” but at the end of the day young people will be disappointed when they pray for something and it doesn’t happen. Rob calls these the “what if not?” moments.

“What if they don’t get healed?”

“What if this never happens?”

I know I’m guilty of not preparing young people for this (and myself if I’m honest). Too often we paint a rose tinted picture of Christianity and its this that mostly destroys the faith of our young people.

It was a great night and it left me with so much to think about? What about you? Has any of these thoughts struck you/ challenged you?

How to Get Your Kids Through Church Without Them Hating God: Part 1

On Wednesday 2nd November I attended the “how to get your kids through church without them hating God” tour organised by Rob Parsons and ‘Care for the Family’.

It was an excellent evening with lots of thought-provoking ideas. As an aside, one thing I really enjoyed what that they encouraged people to tweet comments using #GYKTC tag and it was great to interact with others in attendance and hear what they were being challenged with. A few of the older people I was with glanced at me a couple of times because I was typing away on my phone. They probably thought I was being rude but I was REALLY interacting with the talks through twitter.

I’d love to see my speakers in church using twitter to allow people to comment or ask questions during their sermons. Although, I have to wonder, how many of the church congregation i am part of have ever heard of twitter.

Anyway, let me get one with actually discussing the event.

The evening was split into three sections and each section consisted of a short video, drama and then a talk by Rob Parsons. Phatfish already provided worship at the start and the end of the evening. In this blog, I will explore section 1.

Section 1

Rob explained the four steps of faith for ‘churched’ young people:

1) experienced faith (what they see from their parents)

2) affiliated faith (from their church and peer group)

3) searching faith (where they graps the ability to question their faith and ask difficult questions)

4) owned faith (a faith they accept and own for themselves)

Rob said an interesting thing in that although we don’t think our children/ young people are listening to us, they are in fact hearing everything we have to say. A simple yet profound misunderstanding.

I wonder if you’re anything like me and you’re standing talking to a group of young people about an event coming up or something you’re asking them to do and then a few minutes later they have completely forgotten. It’s like you’re banging your head against a brick wall.  In many cases it is clear to me that they are not listening to me. By listening, I mean taking in the facts that I am presenting to them. But what they are doing is ‘hearing’ how I’m saying things. They pick up on the aggression and the frustration. They pick up on the times I am gossiping or slagging someone off and this will have a profound impact on their faith. As leaders, we need to be aware that young people are always ‘hearing’ even when they’re not listening and how we interact with them and others will shape what they think of Christianity.

Something else, he said, that struck me is that we sometimes confuse “spirituality with personality“. We assume that a christian looks and sounds like ‘this or that’. We have a fixed ‘jelly mould’ that we expect Christians to be like and when they don’t fit that mould we assume their faith isn’t growing/ isn’t strong/ isn’t there. In fact what we are looking at is their personality. All Christians are not and should not be the same and we need to get rid of the ‘christian young people’ moulds that we have in our heads. Just because a young person isn’t acting how we think a christian should does not mean they are not a christian.

This idea has profound implications for how we measure ‘christian growth’. How do we know the young people we work with are becoming more like Jesus? More Christ-like? I know I have been guilty of thinking that only those who are actively engaging at youth house groups or are volunteering to be upfront at the youth services are the ones who are ‘spiritually’ growing. But that’s just not the case!

Instead of a ‘one size fits all’ discipleship measuring tool, we need to look at each young person individually and see how each one is changing. We may see that a young person is smoking (and drinking) and think that the are not becoming more like Jesus when in actual fact they are out helping people and praying loads. We cannot measure all young people’s spiritual growth in the same way.

What do you think?

 

Youth Work Summit Musings Part 4: Final Thoughts

On Saturday 20th October, I attended the youthwork summit in Manchester: An incredible thought provoking, God soaked, challenging and inspiring day.

Over the next few days, I hope to explore what I thought worked well (as well as what didn’t), what inspired and challenged me, what I disagreed with and what, frankly, bored me.  sadly I couldn’t make the retreat or the other activities on the Friday so my posts will focus solely on the Saturday event.

So let’s dive in.

read part 1 here

read part 2 here

read part 3a here 

read part 3b here

So we finally reach the end.

Session 4 brought us a powerful and thought provoking drama from ‘in yer face’ theatre company and then an extended time of worship with the brilliant Rend Collective Experiment. It was freeing and God soaked but then…they advertised their new album right in the middle of it. That put me off a little. Not enough to stop listening to them, but I think it was a mistake. They brought it back though with a final play of “we are the church”. an incredible song.

Then out came Mark Yaconelli to bring everything to a close. I really enjoyed his talk. It was inspiring and uplifting and I want to talk about it a little but let me talk about it first from an objective point of view. Yaconelli’s talk seemed to be a closing of the retreat day, not the summit. Does that make sense? He spoke about slowing down and spiritual disciplines. I couldn’t make it to the Friday but I sensed that this was wrapping up what he talked about then. It was a great talk, but I think it should have ended the Friday, not the Saturday. But that’s a small gripe and didn’t detract from what he had to say. Plus his sermon ended in the best way possible (with a dance) and my heart has swept slightly at the end of every sermon I have listened to since because they didn’t end in the same way.

I could see Jesus getting down with his bad-self at the end of the ‘the sermon on the mount’. Could you?

So, let’s discuss the talk a little.

Yaconelli spoke about the soul and how it knows God in three ways: through wonder, through suffering, and through joy.

We get caught up in the busyness of life and miss our soul shouting out to us “slow down!” Yaconelli told the story of his son’s ‘slow club’ and how one day he joined it after his son invited him.

God invites each of us into this club each day and most of the time we ignore it. Every so often we need to stop and remember we are created to live. it’s an obvious statement but one I know I forget a lot. Recently I had forgotten it all together and had been working completely out my own strength and skills. And I was getting quite burnt out by it all. This was a timely remember to ‘chill the **** out’ and embrace more of life. To spend more time with God and with my family. I won’t always get it right, but I’m trying.

And then Yaconelli danced. Have I already mentioned that he danced?

Final Thoughts

So how do I finish this series of blogs? How do I sum up that incredible, challenging, inspiring, thought provoking day?

I’ve really enjoyed writing these posts as it’s helped me to digest what was said during the day and implement some of it. I hope its been helpful to some of you. If it has, please encourage me. I’m an insecure guy sometimes.

Thanks to everyone who put so much hard work into the event. May you know how much it has blessed me and others (i noticed martin saunders also slipped a ‘rob bell-ism’ during his presenting)

i’m slightly disappointed that i won’t be going to the summit next year as london is too far (and expensive) to travel for one day but look forward to hopefully going in 2013.

Thanks again.

the world does not end because of an increase in knowledge but because of a lack of wonder…” (Mark Yaconelli)

Youth Work Summit Musings Part 1: Exploring Culture

on Saturday, I attended the youthwork summit in Manchester: An incredible thought provoking, God soaked, challenging and inspiring day.

Over the next few days, I hope to explore what I thought worked well (as well as what didn’t), what inspired and challenged me, what I disagreed with and what, frankly, bored me. sadly I couldn’t make the retreat or the other activities on the Friday so my posts will focus solely on the Saturday event.

So let’s dive in.

Coming on like a Jesus-centred Mumford and Sons, ‘The Rend Collective Experiment’ blew me away and allowed me to enter into one of the most freeing and worshipful ‘worship times’ I have had in quite sometime. For once my identity wasn’t found in being the church youth worker and the time allowed me to drop my cynical walls and sing and cry to my Creator. I am still reeling from it.

After that blistering worship time, and the introductions were done and dusted, we started in the first stream of talks. The day was split into four of these ‘streams’ and in each, a handful of youth workery types were given between 5 and 15 minutes to ‘wow’ us, challenge us and make us think. The structure was similar to that of the TED events that take place around the world. The first stream of talks centred around the theme of exploring culture.

The first talk had the title “The Messiah wears Prada'”given by Dr Katie Edwards and looked at how advertisers use the biblical images of Jesus and Adam and Eve. Now, I know from speaking to others, that many people took a lot from this talk but throughout the various adverts I was left asking, “so what?”. For me, there was a lot of theory and very little application. I know advertisers use these images but I didn’t really see what I could do with any of the info. Maybe in the comments section people could let me know how they are going to use what was said in their youth work contexts.

Up next was Mark Roques talking about “James Bond and Rat Worship“. After around ten minutes of nonsense, Roques finally got to his point, which was the four responses that people will have to the faith:

1) it’s not scientific so bin it

2) believe what you like

3)believe and worship

4) ignore it and follow Jesus

He then discussed how and why we should help young people engage and be critical of culture. Now, I liked what Roques was saying but felt he could have missed out the james bond and rat stuff and focused more time on the last few points but that’s just me. Again, feel free to disagree in the comments section.

Nathan Shepherd then got up and explored how “facebook is killing youth ministry

I agree with Shepherds point that those who are part of facebook (and I included myself in that) may be suffering from hyper-connectivity. We have too many friends and want to keep constantly up-to-date with what’s happening which can result in us not being ‘present’ with people in the offline world. I know I am guilty of that. I’ll be sitting with family or friends and I hear a little voice in my head saying,

“just think about all the funny things people might be saying in their status updates. if you don’t log on now you’ll miss the chance to comment and so people won’t get to ‘like’ the next witty thing that you say.”

As I said, I liked what Shepherd said but felt he only covered one side of the argument. What about those who ‘do’ youth work on facebook? Yes, there are downsides to facebook as it pulls us away from ‘eye to eye’ contact but is that any less important than the ‘screen to screen’ contact? Some of the most profound and honest conversations I have had with young people has been online. I feel Shepherd missed a trick there. Nevermind.

As funny as Jo Davenports sale pitch for “i-merging church” was (and for the first few minutes I was sat thinking, “surely this a joke”) I felt the time could have been better spent looking at the issue of facebook and online youth work in more detail.

Next up was “the imagined self in a digital world” with Andrew Graystone. Now, this was more like it! I loved what Graystone was discussing here and his use of the demon possessed man ‘Legion’ in Mark’s gospel was eye opening and engaging. It challenged me on the various avatars that I project online: whether it be twitter, facebook, or this blog and whether they are true representations of my offline self. I think it’s a great challenge for us and the young people we work with.

It also gave me a way of communicating the trinity to young people by speaking of the different avatars of God. I know it may not be theologically robust or entirely orthodox but it’s definitely a good way of introducing young people to the theology of the “3 yet one” God that we serve. fascinating stuff.

Finally, Helen Gatenby gave the impassioned and highly subversive speech, “what are we to make of the riots”. It was a talk that stirred me up inside. She spoke of the injustice of an MP who spent 1000s on expenses such as TVs (yet no action was take against him) in comparison to the teenager who stole an ice cream during the riots and was imprisoned for 16 months!!!

What do we expect of our young people when they see the so-called ‘elite’ stealing and lying?

How can we model a better way? A stirring and challenging way to end the first stream of talks I’m sure you’ll agree.

So it was a mixed bag. There were some talks that inspired me and provoked me and some that simply passed me by. But I think that’s what makes the summit great. Every speaker and topic is not going to engage me. For every talk that bores me someone else will find it compelling. I’d rather spend 90 minutes watching 8 different talks that just one or two.

My next post will focus on the 2nd stream: “inspiring ideas” which was just as mixed as the first stream.

Glasgow Passion Review

On Thursday night, I took our young people to see the “glasgow passion” (a modern retelling of the passion of Jesus set in Glasgow) in George Square, Glasgow and I thought I would share a few thoughts about it. I’ve seen a number of modern retellings, from the South Africa set “Son of Man” to the outdoor passion play in Manchester a few years ago. This production shared more than a passing resemblance to the Manchester play with its use of pop songs and outdoor city centre setting.

Rather than simply saying whether the play was successful or not, I will instead focus on three areas: story, setting and acting.

Story

From experience, I know how hard it it to translate the story of Jesus into a modern setting because the gospel of Jesus is culturally bound. The events and characters in the story are time and culture specific. The issues that Jesus grapples with are the issues of first century palestine. I feel that the writers of the ‘glasgow passion’ did a reasonable job of updating the story.

Herod and (Mc)Caiaphas were recast as politicans campaigning for re-election amidst allegations of corruption. So far, so good. This idea worked well as it gave them a reason for getting rid of Jesus. They wanted the power and so when a new political candidate rises up, they will do anything to stop him.

They also introduce a new terrorism act which works as a plot device to have Jesus arrested and tried. Having Jesus labelled a terrorist works well.

Translating the disciples was always going to be difficult and I think they do an adequate job but as is often the case with these productions, many of the characters aren’t given much to do and disappear into the background. It would have been better to reduce the numbers of disciples to three our four to make them more rounded.

My biggest gripe with the story is the ending. For most of the running time, the writers are keen to show that this is modern day Glasgow. That this is what would happen if Jesus walked around now. But by trying to be faithful to the gospel text, they make a huge mistake. After Jesus is arrested, he is sentenced to death by lethal injection.

That is not modern day Glasgow.

In that one act, the story loses its grip on reality. To add insult, the execution of Jesus is carried out publically. This would not happen.

It would have been better to have Jesus arrested and for Herod or Caiaphas to have paid another inmate to have killed him whilst in prison. Yes, the death wouldn’t have been public but it would have made more sense and would have fit better with the modern day setting.

Setting

An outdoor play, in October, is a difficult thing to pull off. It was very cold on Thursday night and many of our young people lost interest because of this. In order to keep people focused on the story, rather than the temperature, it has to be more engaging and unfortunately the story sagged in the middle.

There were four stages (i think) dotted around George Square and the audience had to turn to keep up with the action (or just watch the giant screens). The problem with this set up is that you waste a minute or so trying to work out where the actors are speaking from. It would have been better to have had the four stages at the front but that is a small gripe.

Acting

The main players: Duncan Rennie, Alan McHugh, Derek Munn and Mike Tibbetts played their parts well and Rennie did a great job of bringing real depth to the character of Jesus. The rest of the cast were a mixed bag and there was some truly terrible and amateur acting that threatened to derail the entire production.

Overall, it was worth seeing and was a good experiment. I think if it were to happen again, some of these issues would need to be looked at if it were to be more successful.

Top 10 Films of 2010

(Note: These are all films I watched for the first time in 2010 but may have been released earlier)

1) Inception

2) Up in the Air

3) The Brother’s Bloom

4) Avatar

5) Kick-Ass

6) Monsters

7) Black Dynamite

8) The Collector

9) A Single Man

10) Cemetery Junction