The Passion Trust is the only registered charity that exists solely to support and promote Passion Plays in the UK. It does this through:
- PERFORMANCES – help for individual passion plays through direct involvement or consultancy support
- COMMUNITY – supporting the passion play community through resources and events
- ADVOCACY – fundraising and publicising biblical drama in local communities and nation-wide
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The work of the Passion Trust:
- The Passion Trust resources people who are staging passion events in their city. It helps them to bring their vision to fruition. Funding is one of the biggest obstacles for community projects. The Passion Trust allows people to put their energy into the play itself. It shoulders the time consuming process of applying for grants and raising funds and aims to fundraise on behalf of smaller projects. Funds coming into the Trust can be sent out to smaller projects that are struggling to get off the ground.
In a survey conducted by the Bible Society in 2014 38% of children indicated that they have never seen, read or heard Adam & Eve and 43% had never seen, read or heard of the Crucifixion.
- The Passion Trust also provides pro bono consultations and workshops free of charge for people who are looking to put on a Passion Play in their area. The Passion Trust website allows for passion events around the country to be marketed effectively.
- Advocates and liaises with local and national press on behalf of Passion Plays and public performances of the Bible. It enables performances to be publicised via PR contacts and the media.
According to Meaningful Chocolate, ‘Out of the whopping 80 million chocolate Easter Eggs sold each year in the UK, not one of them mentions Jesus on the box’. Their Real Easter Egg is the UK’s first and only Fairtrade charity egg to mention Jesus and the events of the Christian period
- The Passion Trust is committed to ongoing research and education among the community of people directing, producing and acting in Passion plays. It facilitates the exchange of ideas and resources through its annual conference and email circulation. The Trust is committed to developing as a central body available to advise and support local communities and groups of actors/volunteers. This is through pro bono consultations, advice, networking, consultation and resources.
According to a survey conducted by ComRes in 2012 90 per cent of Christians think Children today know less about the crucifixion and resurrection than they did 30 years ago.
The importance of Passion Plays:
Passion plays produced and performed at community level are exciting places of communal exploration of scripture. They result in locally-contingent performances of the Bible’s account of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
Passion Plays are unique and interesting community events that are worth investing in:
- They are not professional performances. Yet many professional and highly talented people from world of theatre, education and music contribute their skills at all levels of the process. They don’t require a cast that knows the scriptures or has acting skills. But they give volunteers the opportunity to engage deeply with the scriptures. This enables them to develop skills that increase confidence, accountability, courage and public speaking.
- Passion Plays tend to be among the largest volunteer-led events that provide free performances for local communities. They don’t require financial support from local councils, but contribute to their local community through free performances. They draw people from surrounding areas to enjoy the performance and bring tourism, trade and attention to the city. We have observed that once a Passion Play has been performed, local councils ask for it to be repeated. Acknowledging that it brings entertainment, culture, theatre and education into the heart of their communities. A key example of this was Brighton & Hove Council. It waived the public liability fee for the Passion Play in 2012 after the success of the 2011 event.
- They draw churches of different denominations together by focussing on the importance of the Gospel and the centrality of Jesus Christ.
- They have a unifying and creative impact on those involved in putting on the plays. At Passion Trust conferences and events, a wealth of information has emerged. This speaks of the passion, dedication and faith of the many people who work so hard behind the scenes to make these performances possible. Stories of unsolicited funds, donated goods and skilled labour. As well as the emergence of the right spaces and the right people, plus inspirational casting opportunities at the last minute. Stories of optimistic, joyful and expectant perseverance in the face of obstacles and challenges. Stories of the inspiring financial and personal investments made by the many people who volunteered their time and expertise.
- Passion Plays foster significant relationships between members of cast and the community. This is through rehearsals and investing in people who live in underprivileged communities. The experience of staging a successful public event is powerful. Those who might otherwise feel unheard and unseen within the community find a voice, and feel listened to. People who are seen to be underprivileged and marginalised, whether unemployed, homeless, at-risk youth or ex-offenders, can find a place to contribute here.
- Passion Plays remind us of our dramatic and literary history. Liturgical drama and the cycles of Mystery Plays were important because of influence on Shakespeare – imagery, language, themes, characters from the Easter and the Bible figure in Shakespeare and canon of English literature. Pilate and Lady Macbeth. The Bible, its characters, imagery and record of the life of Jesus, has been as influential in our cultural and literary history as have the collected works of Shakespeare.
- Passion Plays are exciting and constructive community arts project. As arts projects that involve whole communities, they are able to build relationships between different groups and generate local ownership to make each passion play self-sustaining and in touch with local needs. Local councils, youth groups, churches and arts organisations have been very supportive of the community-building work that is part of putting on a Passion Play.
Case Study: Brighton
Soul by the Sea: Brighton’s Passion Play 2011 -2013
The Passion Trust’s work with Brighton has created a prototype for the kind of involvement the Passion Trust intends to have in many cities in the future. Intense involvement for a few years created a solid foundation. A significant groundswell continued until the people involved feel confident to take over completely. Because of its success, the Passion Trust aims to repeat this process in another city with the same kind of intense work for a few years.
The Passion Plays from Soul by the Sea showed the power of the Gospel story through drama. The free public performances drew large crowds. It all started in 2011 when thousands of people came to watch the play at the West Pier. It was a inspiring and moving event for Christians and non-Christians alike.
“I’m not religious, but when they put Jesus on the Cross, it got through to me. It was very real.” Ken Cardwell, 73, one of the 3,000 spectators watching the 2011 Passion Play in Brighton.
‘It is good to see the Christian witness on the streets of Brighton. I hope many church goers can support the initiative & make their presence felt in the broader community. This is a great opportunity let’s not miss it.’
Bishop Conry – Bishop of Arundel and Brighton
Brighton’s Passion Play exemplified the potential of community plays to strengthen relations within local communities. And to engage with people considered underprivileged and marginalised (unemployed, homeless, at-risk youth and ex-offenders), bringing theatre & education into the heart of the city. The Brighton Passion has attracted national attention through feature articles such as those found in The Times and The Guardian. Brighton has hosted a passion play every year since 2011. Local councils and communities, in recognition of the success and benefits of the event to the community at large, have asked for them to continue.
‘This event is a wonderful opportunity to witness the Easter story live in our home city.
The suffering and triumph portrayed in the Passion Play speaks to everyone, regardless of culture or belief. The work of these dedicated actors and volunteers is both moving and inspiring. I would encourage everyone to come and partake in this amazing spectacle.’ Mike Weatherly, MP
The term Community Play really does describe the 100 strong amateur cast and crew from 14 countries. It included students, an ex-prisoner, a former homeless person and three people with special needs. A small amount of professionals are hired [lead role of Jesus and understudy] but the remaining cast are made up of anyone who is interested, from professionals to children. Because the plays take 6 months to rehearse, the cast really do become a community. It’s great to see people forging strong friendships. The cast do not need to have any religious faith, everybody works together to tell one of the greatest stories of history. These truly are Community Plays because in the journey together volunteers and cast members discovered new talents and skills. They also served their community by staging a free event for the benefit of their city or town.
‘The Brighton Passion Play presents a wonderful opportunity to retell the greatest of stories in a dynamic public setting, to bring the Christian message right into the bustling heart of the city. The suffering and triumph portrayed in the drama can reach everyone, regardless of culture and belief, and serves to inspire the thousands of people who come to witness the spectacle. I would encourage everyone to come and partake in this exciting, moving, and ultimately, joyful event.’ The Rt Revd Dr John Hind Bishop of Chichester