Seventeenth Century Passion Play


Public performances of Mystery Plays and Passion Plays had been suppressed during the Reformation. However, there are still references to performances and their influence on into the seventeenth century.

Thomas Beard wrote Theatre of God’s Judgments Wherein is represented the admirable justice of God against all notorious sinners, both great and small in 1631. In it, he includes a story of an actor who was killed during a performance of the crucifixion. He described how the actor died:

[The actor who] played Christ’s part, handing upon the Cross, was wounded to death by him that should have thrust his sword into a bladder full of blood tied to his side.

Beard went on to describe this as the vengeance of God. You can read more about this story in Anne Righter’s Shakespeare and the Idea of the Play. (Chatto & Windus 1962/ Penguin Shakespeare Library 1967).

There is another reference to Seventeenth Century Passion Plays coming from 1644. A Puritan cleric called John Shaw encountered a man who only knew about the crucifixion because he had seen a play as a child. Shaw had travelled to Westmorland to instruct the local people. And he was horrified that most of them had little or no knowledge of the Bible.

While he was there, he interrogated an old man. This was to find out whether he knew anything about salvation through Jesus Christ. The old man eventually recalled that he had once seen a play “where there was a man on a tree, and blood ran down”.

You can read more about this in Helen Cooper, Shakespeare and the Medieval World (Bloomsbury: London, 2010).



Is fundraising like online dating?

Online dating is trying to find the right match among many differnet people. Fundraising for Passion Plays is similar to online dating in one respect: trying to find the right match for your Play among different trusts and funding charities. Finding this perfect match is the key to raising funds to tell the Easter story!

Once you find trusts and funders who are of a similar mindset and value the things you value, you are well on the way to a perfect match.


How do we find potential funders?

The Charity Commission’s Register of Charities allows you to search for free by using filters to narrow your search. (Remember, Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate registers.)
Funding Central is another register that is free to access.
For a more expensive option, you can try the Directory of Social Change’s Funds Online website which is regularly updated.
Since Passion Plays bring many churches of all denominations together, your diocese can be a good source of information and signposting. For example, see the Diocese of Bristol and their list of funders here.
The Christian Funders’ Forum is also a useful source.


How do we let funders know our project is a good match for them?

Now is the time to do some research and really think about compatibility with the funders you are researching.

You can research their online content, websites, and also Further information will be inread through their annual reports published on the Charity Commissions website (click ‘Documents’ tab). These annual reports will give useful imformation about projects they have previously funded.

A quick phone call can also be helpful in establishing contact and goodwill as you will be able to find out more about them and let them know what you do.

Remember here that one of the key elements is timing! Some funders have a set application process that requires you to apply before a deadline. Other funders have trustees’ meetings at set times during the year and those times are good to work with.

The timing of your project also matters. Some funders like to fund projects in the early stage of development, while others like to give funding when they see other funders have already contributed.

There is a lot to think about with fundraising! But Passion Plays are such unique projects that it can also be an enjoyable process. Many funders like to hear about large community arts events that tell the Easter story in fresh and inspiring ways. Not only do Passion Plays have large outdoor audiences across the UK each Easter, they are also unique spaces of community, skill-sharing, mentoring and investing in the lives of volunteers across all sections of society. They are more than a one-off performance and the impact spreads across the whole community for many months.


Where can I find more help with fundraising?

If you want more help with fundraising, we have plenty more tips and advice on our website here.

We have recorded sessions from previous Passion Trust Conferences including sessions looking at Finance & Fundraising, Administration and Practical Considerations, and Q&A sessions. You can see more information and watch short helpful videos on our website here.

You can also find lots of helpful tips and advice at The Benefact Trust here or click on the image below.

three bullet points with rows of text and images in blue bubbles with white icons for help with fundraising


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