Monthly Archives: April 2004


[Keep Britain Happy]

Reasons to be cheerful, one, two, three (four, five, six…)

1. You can now send emails to your future self. A fantastic idea, and all very Calvin and Hobbes. Must ask the fifteen-years-on Rhys where his personal jet pack is.

2. BBC2 will be 40 next Tuesday, and to celebrate, the BFI are putting on a special season of events. No question about the highlight: a Play School reunion on May 15th. With all the usual suspects present and correct, and a mass singalong of the Play Away theme all but a certainty, I’m pretty gutted I can’t make it to London then. Guess I’ll just have to carry on growing my Fred Harris-like hair.

3. Speaking of BBC2, here’s the definition of irony: you can now pre-order The Day Today DVD from… er… the Tory Party. I suspect they’ve not seen the Michael Portillo references in it… oh, hang on, yes they probably have. Backburner recommends you get the DVD via ushopugive instead, of course.

4. True, it does smell of a spoof that might have featured in The Day Today, but the ‘eglu’ seems genuine. This answer to the timeless question of ‘but just where do the hens go?’ comes from Omlet, whose mission seems to be to provide chicken coops for the Imac generation. The fact that such a company exists in the first place makes me far too happy.

5. One for Wood: Knightmare is being brought back. No, really, thanks to a lottery grant and the latest in virtual reality. I know far too many people who’ll be glued to their screens if this comes on again.

6. Almost as old news as the Knightmare story, but massively welcome: MySociety got funding. This ad-hoc group includes some of the people behind and the Wibsite front-paged Public Whip, and their projects for the future are even more adventurous. Want a site to make it even simpler to give something away to charity? Or want to make sure that your joint efforts go that little bit further to helping a cause? Hold tight then; the UK internet is about to become a very exciting place.

7. And last, but by no means least, BBC7, bless ’em, are repeating the ‘much-requested’ Elastic Planet, starting tonight just before midnight. Now at last I can find out the hidden truth about the Ballagon.

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For my sins, I think that any news report with the keywords “re-enactment” and “sacreligious” is eminently bloggable. So hats off to Welsh charity Focal Point for giving me something to write about.

Focal Point, as this BBC News report shows, seem to have made it their mission to make Easter that little bit more visceral, by re-enacting Jesus’ crucifixion in various shopping centres up and down the M4 corridor. Four years ago they were in Porth. Two years ago they were in Reading. This Good Friday, they descended on Aberdare.

Their re-enactment of the crucifixion is stark and simple enough – one actor, wearing a loincloth and suitably large quantities of fake blood, mock-nailed to a wooden cross. The reaction from onlookers is all too predictable – disgust, shouts approximating ‘but it’s blasphemy!’ and in one case a 999 call for an ambulance. For their own part, Focal Point claim to be delighted that they are “getting their message across” and are suitably unapologetic about their actions.

Is all this a good or a bad thing? I honestly can’t decide. On the one hand, if we take the measure of column inches and controversy as being proportional to success, Focal Point seem to have hit the jackpot, with significant news coverage everywhere they carry their cross. But not even they expect an I-was-blind-but-now-I-see experience in everyone that sees their gory representation of what happened at Easter. And as in all street preaching, polarising opinion is sometimes a very dangerous thing to do. How many spiritual waiverers, shopping in Aberdare on Friday, have now decided that they’ll have nothing to do with Christianity, as a result of the in-your-face attitude of Focal Point?

Leaving aside Focal Point’s methods, there’s a bigger problem here. Any re-enactment, no matter how well carried out, can only ever effectively show you what happened. Seeing a replay of, say, the Battle of Hastings will give you a keen insight into the effectiveness of crossbows, the strength of a cavalry charge, and the fact that the Normans won. It has little hope of telling you what the importance of the battle was, or most significantly of all, why it had to happen in the first place.

There’s an all-too-obvious allegory here, but it bears making anyway. While I commemorate the crucifixion at Easter, the focal point of my rememberance should be the why, rather than the what. My own personal focal point shouldn’t be the actual suffering of Christ, important though that is. It shouldn’t be the dark days in the tomb either. And that’s where Focal Point fall down – the mere act of sticking an actor on a cross has no hope of telling people why Jesus got to the cross in the first place, and why that solitary act is so important two thousand years later.

That’s a lesson to me, and it’s something that no re-enactment can teach me. And it’s something that I know I should remember today, of all days, in words that make sense to me, if no-one else:

Jesus died because he had to. He rose again because he had to. I follow him because he lets me to, and because I have to. For my sins.

Happy Easter.