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Sunderland: colliery heritage inspires creative Community Passion

Community groups in part of Sunderland were encouraged to turn to a spot of retail therapy to commemorate their area’s mining heritage on Good Friday ...

Community groups in part of Sunderland were encouraged to turn to a spot of retail therapy to commemorate their area’s mining heritage on Good Friday.

More than 300 people packed St Matthew’s Church in Silksworth, Sunderland, to be part of the Great Community Passion, where 14 shopping trolleys had been turned into coal trucks and decorated to depict the 14 stations of the cross in a passion play with a difference.

Originally planned to be held outside, the trolleys – laid out to form the shape of the cross – were brought into the church after the pews were hurriedly removed in order for the event to go ahead.

Groups in the Silksworth and Doxford area decorated the shopping trolleys as coal trucks to take part in the passion play The Great Community Passion, organised by the Church of England parishes of Silksworth and Doxford in the Diocese of Durham.

The Revd David Tolhurst vicar of St Matthew’s said: “The amount of work that has been done by the community in putting this passion play together is quite incredible – and that is not just the decoration of the trolleys, but here today getting the church ready despite the late change of plans due to bad weather.

“The local colliery closed more than 40 years ago, but people who live here still consider themselves part of a colliery community so we thought it would be a good idea to decorate the trolleys as coal trucks. We wanted to spark interest and so we encourage people to be creative with their designs – I think it has been very successful.”

The passion play tells the story of the last few hours of Jesus’ life using the trolley art installations to depict the story. Co-organiser the Revd Susie Thorp, Priest in Charge, Doxford St Wilfrid said: “This is a different way to tell a very familiar story, linking it to what it means to us today, because Jesus’ story of his journey to the cross was 2000 years ago and so what we hoped to do, was to show how relevant it still is to everyone today.

“This has really turned into a community-wide activity, it's amazing. When you go and look at the coal trucks, so many people have added ideas to them in their own special way. The schools that have been involved have managed to get all of their students doing something towards this tremendous community effort – the whole community has been involved and that shows real passion!”

The original idea came from the BBC great North Passion which was set in the Northeast on Good Friday 2014. In that case, shipping containers were used to create installation artworks, in the Great Community Passion – shopping trolleys are fashioned as coal-trucks and act as platforms for art installations.

Photos by Keith Blundy

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