The play was directed in the tradition of the Medieval York Mystery Plays in a contemporary way making it relevant today. It was directed by Geoff Millard, who had previously delivered two passions in Bolton and many others. Our chair, Canon Falak Sher who manages two parishes and four congregations in Manchester, was the overseer of the Manchester Passion play and all the activities.
Fourteen schools in Manchester & Greater Manchester participated in the schools’ arts project. 1000 handmade wooden crosses were sent to the schools with an information letter for parents. The crosses children had decorated were displayed for public to see on the day of the performance. Top three crosses were chosen and presented by Baroness Williams of Trafford with the help of Daphne Stephenson, an award-winning arts teacher.
There was pre-passion music entertainment by Trinity School Choir and Sweet Rhythm Big Band. Award-winning musician Wayne Ellington brought together and directed the music entertainment. A woman wrote on Facebook:
There were 200 volunteers, some Muslims, some Hindu, some homeless and some ex-offenders. There was great harmony, peace and fun throughout the day. There was considerable inter-faith involvement throughout the planning and preparation for the play. The initial idea was discussed between Canon Sher and a Muslim man from the local community who believed this was ‘the greatest story ever told’ (in a video interview posted on Facebook). Also, a few days before the performance a Muslim businessman gave a donation of £1,000 in support of the play.
3000 people attended the event admiring the crosses displayed, enjoying the music, the sunshine and the Passion play. City leaders, from MPs, MEPs, Chief of Police and Minister of State, were joined by leaders of churches across Manchester. The play was live-streamed to Facebook and many people commented that it was great to see even though they couldn’t make it to the Cathedral Gardens.
The BBC also filmed the day and the activities. It was on the 6 o’clock news on 8th April and will be on the Songs of Praise on Easter Sunday. Songs of Praise has 15 million viewers with peak viewing at Easter. There was also considerable press coverage leading up to the event in The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times, BBC News Online and Manchester Evening News. Radio interviews were also given with the BBC Radio North West and BBC Radio Four.
I attended the Passion on Saturday by sheer chance! I am very glad I did as it was a remarkable event on many levels and most stimulating as both a drama and a religious/spiritual experience. I hope that this becomes a Manchester tradition. It deserves to be as famous as Oberammergau.