Christmas meaning explored in unusual places

This Is Wiltshire: Front row – Holly Paton and Katie Poynter. Back row – Jake Payton and Caitlin Payton Front row – Holly Paton and Katie Poynter. Back row – Jake Payton and Caitlin Payton

AMONG rows of empty garages, at the heart of Pinehurst, a band of revellers of a different kind explored the true meaning of Christmas in three stunning displays.

Inspired by a project in Brighton where people decorated beach huts to create a giant advent calendar, the shinepinehurst initiative opted for garages to produce three pop-up installations delving into the message behind the Christian holiday and looking at the birth of Jesus.

While 24 garages seemed an ambitious number, community project leader Simon Halls and residents settled for three garages and each night between Tuesday 17 and last night got to work to turn one each time into a stunning, yet modest Christmas-inspired scene.

Simon, a pioneer minister for the Diocese of Bristol and leader of the shinepinehurst initiative, said: “We don’t have a beach but we thought there were a lot of garages around where we live. This year was a bit of an experiment but next year we might do 12 or enough for an advent calendar.

“It was for people to reflect on the meaning of Christmas. We were looking at how sometimes people can lose sight of what Christmas is about in all the tinsel and glitz and glamour. It’s about giving.”

The installations were also heavily influenced by the tough economy and the harsh reality that many in Swindon and across the UK cannot afford the festivities this year.

On Tuesday, residents of Pinehurst flocked to a garage on Mulberry Grove, where they placed empty wallets and beer bottles filled, on closer examination, with characters from the Nativity story, around broken Christmas lights.

Wednesday saw scores of people pack out a vacant space on Cunningham Road for a spontaneous Nativity play. Pictures drawn by pupils at Swindon Academy and members of Pinehurst’s youth club were exhibited on the walls, acting as a colourful background.

On Thursday, the focus was on hope. Participants were encouraged to write messages on stars dangling from the ceiling of a garage in The Circle.

“It has been quite fun to do,” added Simon, a former youth worker from Pinehurst. “People have really enjoyed it.”

Independent councillor for Gorsehill and Pinehurst, Rochelle Russell, who helped the group secure the garages, said: “I think it is just a lovely thing to do to take us right back to the meaning of Christmas. Community is what counts most, not the amount of presents that you get.”

The displays were also the occasion for Swindon Foodbank to collect goods for the town’s hungry.

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