Clipping the Church uniting communities

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Clipping the Church was a real triumph for both the artist Tereza Buskova and the communities of Birmingham. Over 200 people attended and clipped St. Barnabas Church in Erdington, by holding hands on Saturday afternoon 11 of June. The event brought together people from different backgrounds and of various interests. There were young and old, people from Erdington and from outside, art lovers, food lovers and passers-by. There were members from different political parties and people of different faiths, all holding hands in an unbroken ring. The community comprising of many different individuals demonstrated their willingness to be part of a wider community.

The event started at the Village Green with a colourful and intriguing procession. First the crowd could see four men emerging from Mason Road, dressed in black trousers and white shirts, carrying a large pyramid shaped prop on their arms. Later it became clear that the prop was covered with copious amounts of ‘celestial crusts’, a traditional Central European type of sweet pastry. These crusts were distributed at the end of the ceremony with tea and coffee. The men, followed by two mothers with two children and hundreds more, paraded through Erdington High Street, closed especially for this occasion by Erdington Police.

Clipping the Church was enriched by a large number of amazing people who kindly helped to make it happen. One of them was Jane Holt, whose house was used as a dressing venue. This is also where the performers, playing the roles of two mothers and two children, were getting ready. The atmosphere in the house before entering the streets of Erdington was already very special, similar to the preparations before a wedding. Many people described it as ‘magical’, especially when they saw the beautifully dressed mothers with children. These performers were wearing costumes, designed by Buskova especially for this occasion. Although the outfits may have looked like traditional folk costumes, they were adapted and altered. This is the way Buskova usually works, by reinterpreting existing traditions and adding her own twist to them.

At this occasion she was especially inspired by the almost extinct English tradition called Clipping the Church. It traditionally took place once a year when young apprentices and women in service were allowed to travel home to visit their families and their ‘mother’ church. During the ceremony, the reunited families and local faithful would link hands to form an unbroken chain around the entire church. Facing out towards the world, members of this living circle would often sing hymns as they slowly revolved around the symbol of their faith and belonging. More than enough people participated in Buskova’s contemporary, open to all faiths, version of this striking custom. It was awe striking moment when the ring closed and the church was clipped. The atmosphere was enhanced by church bells ringing. A real sense of achievement and unity was felt in the air. Magic happened.

Photography by Marcin Szymczak

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