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Bristol: world's first cycling nativity

This was the Christmas story told as never before, as the world’s first Nativity Cycle pedalled into Bristol ...

This was the Christmas story told as never before, as the world’s first Nativity Cycle pedalled into Bristol earlier this week.

Crowds gathered at Creative Common, near Bristol’s Temple Meads Station, to witness The Desperate Men, one of the country’s leading outdoor arts companies, mount a bicycling version of the classic Christmas story.

The production was a commission from Bible Society and involved a 12-strong cast of characters from the Nativity – including Wise Men and Women, King Herod, a Shepherdess and, of course, Mary and Joseph – criss-crossing the city on their specially decorated trikes and bikes.
 
The 40-minute final scene saw Herod arrive by ferry; Mary enter the open-air stage to Madonna’s Like a Virgin; and, the Angel Gabriel pedal in on an oversized bike which blared out Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. Jesus’ birth, in a shuddering pop-up tent, was greeted rather beautifully as members of a local choir scattered through the audience joined the cast in singing a slow, gentle lullaby.
 
Earlier in the day, the actors pedalled around the city re-enacting elements of the Nativity story for curious shoppers and passers-by. They stopped at hotels looking for a place to stay, entered a travel agent to book flights to Bethlehem, and entertained diners at a restaurant called The Stable.
 
Kierstan Lowe, 40, who watched the play with her two daughters, said afterwards, “It’s lovely to be in touch with why we celebrate Christmas. I say that as an atheist: I want my children to know there’s an important story here, a message that’s important whether you have a faith or not. That’s why I came.” Six-year-old Àine added, “It was fantastic!”
 
Bristol-based lecturer Amy Creech, watching with eight-year-old Rosa, said, “It was fun and warm and inclusive. I’m not religious, but I thought it would be an interesting interpretation of the story, and it was.”
 
Chris Pirie, 52, a puppeteer from Bristol, added, “I loved the fact that it was for everyone. It’s always good to hear a fresh take on a familiar story.”
 
Ben Whitnall, Bible Society’s Campaigns Manager, said, “A few people were somewhat baffled – but most were incredibly positive and engaged. Children were tugging on their mums sleeve to point out the characters, and several people even offered Mary a place to stay.”
 
He added, “Nine out of 10 people never engage with the Bible. I hope the Nativity Cycle has helped people see the Bible in a fresh way, and they’ll be inspired to look at it for themselves. If we don’t take action, it could be lost to future generations, that’s why we’re encouraging all parents this festive season to take a little time during their annual celebrations to help pass on these fantastic stories.”

Photos: Bible Society / Layton Thompson

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