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Rakewell

The painful practice of cashing in on the Crucifixion

7 April 2017

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

To Manchester, where eyebrows have been raised at plans for a particularly, erm, passionate Easter fundraising event. On Wednesday, the Church of England formally slapped down a proposal to offer real-life crucifixion experiences in order to raise funds ahead of the city’s Passion Play, deeming the planned spectacle sacrilegious and a risk to health and safety.

The proposal to offer members of the public the ‘full crucifixion experience’ was the brainchild of Passion trust volunteer fundraiser Alexander Stewart-Clark, who posted an advert for the scheme with a view to raising £8,000 needed to cover the cost of the £50,000 play. Had they taken place, the crucifixions would have been held in Manchester Cathedral grounds, with punters paying more than £700 for the pleasure of reenacting the death of Christ. According to The Times, organisers stressed that there would be ‘no nails, no pain’.

‘The idea was, on the Friday when the stage was being set up, to give something tangible for people to pay for’, said Stewart-Clark. ‘It could be £25 to have dinner with Pontius Pilate, £200 to have dinner with Jesus, or in this case £750 to be “crucified”, but people didn’t embrace it’.

In search of an explanation for this lack of enthusiasm, Rakewell thinks back to his dear, departed old mucker Sebastian Horsley, the artist who had first-hand experience of such things. In 2000, Horsley travelled to the Philippines in order to take part in the islands’ devotional crucifixion ceremony. Almost as soon as he had been nailed to the cross, experiencing physical agony, the foot support broke and he was sent flying to the ground. The event was captured on film by Sarah Lucas, and it makes for painful viewing indeed.

Recording the event in his diary, Horsley wrote: ‘I have been punished by a God I don’t believe in and he has thrown me off the cross for impersonating his son, for being an atheist, and for being a disaster. I have made a complete fool of myself. I am going to be a laughing stock. The film will end up on Jeremy Beadle.’ Perhaps the Church of England’s decision was for the best…

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.

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