The Passion Trust on UCB2

A blonde-haired woman with glasses and a demin jacket smiles at the camer.

A blond-haired woman with glasses and a demin jacket smiles at the camera and text next to her says 'Ruth O'Reilly-Smith'.


Our founding trustee, Alex, was interviewed by Ruth for UCB 2 on her radio show called ‘This is My Story’. Ruth is the host of the popular show that creates ‘space for powerful stories to be told on the radio’ and as host she gets to ‘meet some truly great and inspiring people.’ We are delighted that Alex was one of those truly great and inspiring people and have extracts from this interview below.

You can listen to the full interview here and you can see photographs from the Brighton Passion that Alex talks about here.


Tell us about the importance of Easter

Easter, the most important day apart from Christmas in the Christian calendar to remind us what Jesus did when he died on the cross and gave us eternal life.  It’s a very moving story…it has drama, betrayal, a framed trial, unjust torture, and an innocent man killed. On top of that the main character says he is God and no one comes to the Father except through me.


Tell us how you set up Passion Trust?

When I was in a Passion Play in a field in Scotland I meet some Chinese students from Edinburgh University who had been sent there by their professor. He had said go along and see the play if you want to understand Christianity and Western civilisation culture and religion. They had no idea who Jesus was and when you see the play the tears just come…I’ve seen busloads of children arrive from Glasgow. Causing trouble, and chucking sweet wrappers, but during the play, they started to get quieter and quieter and by the end they were in tears. You didn’t hear a squeak out of them.

A Passion Play doesn’t preach, it just tells the story.


Take us back to when you saw the passion play that deeply impacted you.

The first Passion Play I saw was in Wintershall where Peter Hutley put on his Passion Play. Dad saw it and said let’s put it on in Scotland and I acted in it. When you act in it you see the impact it has on people. So I said let’s put it on down in London. I had a year off and I told God what shall I do? And in a prayer meeting, someone said you need to put a Passion Play on. And I said where? Then we saw a newspaper headline saying ‘Brighton, the most godless city in the UK’. So we said ok, that’s where we need to put it on.

So we went to Brighton, but God had different ideas. We went at it with song and dance and got the mayor involved and had expensive videos, and it was going to be the best thing since sliced bread. But God didn’t have his hand on it. He wasn’t building it with us. So he flattened that one and humbled me. Then God said in a prayer meeting and said Alex you’ve got to go back and put it on but this time do it in my strength.

So we started with a quiet Chinese pastor who had a passion to put the Gospel on the streets in Brighton. She gathered some students together. Then I met James Burke Dunsmore, the famous actor who plays Jesus and we all put our heads together and the three of us approached the local pastor and said would you oversee us? Through some difficulties and hiccups, we managed to put it on and it went down an absolute storm.

The cost was about £100,000. We don’t know where the money came from. It just arrived. People arrived. Someone donated a warehouse, someone donated a big bus, a stage, money came in at the right time. It was truly humbling to see what God does if he is behind it. Even on the day, we thought it was a disaster because the mikes didn’t work. One of the Roman guards took my mike. I was a centurion and I had to lean over and speak into someone else’s mike. You know the silence when someone misses their cue? It was that kind of silence during the crucifixion and we all thought it was a disaster, but God wanted there to be silence to sit and look at this spectacle and the main person dying on the cross and there were about three minutes quiet and then he said ‘Eli, Eli, my father, my father…’ In that silence…God works best in the silence and then you hear the final words of Jesus and just weeping.

It was fantastic because unexpected churches – the poor, the unrecognised – all came round. Do you know who the best church was? The Egyptian Orthodox Church! They were fantastic! They fitted the characters the most. Jesus wasn’t blond-haired or blue-eyed. He was middle eastern and they all loved it and we’re all still friends after it.

You can see photographs from the Brighton Passion on our gallery here.

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.

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