The puppets were made by a group from the church to ensure that all the figures were to scale, but the heads were "dressed" by the children from 2 local schools, 2 Sunday schools, the Rush children's club from St Catherine's Church and Rushen Guides and Brownies. We gave them no directions other than identifying the characters. The heads were then "mounted" on 8ft poles with a cross piece to form the shoulders; a harness was fitted to support the weight of the figure as they were to be carried by strong volunteers who could handle the weight, and the gale force winds to which they were to be subjected! The figures were then dressed using yards and yards of material all of which was donated by numerous folk in the south of the island who heard of the project.
So what was the plan? The idea was to try to get across the true meaning of Christmas by performing several five minute Nativity "spots" around Port Erin village on the afternoon of the "Port Erin at Christmas" event scheduled for December 5th. However, Storm Desmond struck the island and the local police advice was to avoid all unnecessary travel. They didn't actually SAY that this advice included Wise Men coming from the East (was that Douglas?), but we took the hint and the whole event was sadly cancelled.
Not to be beaten, we decided to resurrect the event on a smaller scale on Christmas Eve based around the Railway station. Rushen Silver Band were out playing carols, we opened the grotto (we had 150 Santa's gifts already wrapped!) and served roasted chestnuts (ye,s we had 20kg of these to be used up!!) and we DID manage two five minute Nativity playlets, outside the station, in strong wind, but it was at least dry. The sight of Mary being carried horizontally through the village with three people for ballast did at least draw attention to what was going on and we performed to good audiences.
And so for next year: the puppets will be carefully dismantled and stored, their clothing packaged away, and during the year we will work on them to develop them further. The 2016 version will hopefully have arms, and we need to make an angel too!
We have ideas about trying to take the puppets on location round the island. We Methodists could make quite an impact on our communities if we could find eight willing strong puppeteers to go "on tour" to tell the story of Christmas. If you already have a local "Christmas in the barn" and would like our three metre high puppets to visit your event, or you have a barn and a willing farmer who would welcome us in your village, please let us know and we would love to talk with you to see how we can get the message out there.
If you fancy being involved in any way, please contact Judy Matthews on 835073 or drop an email. Don't wait until next Christmas to do so, we have work to do through the year!