Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Why Artist Needed the Vicars' Verdict

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Why Artist Needed the Vicars' Verdict

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Whetstone

A group of Gateshead vicars is starring in a film at Baltic. David Whetstone asked them for their thoughts about the unusual project.

To make the artwork that would cap his residency at Baltic, Vasco AraIjo asked not for paint, nor wood, nor even hundreds of naked Geordies.

No, the Portuguese artist film-maker requested vicars.

Rev Jim Craig, community arts chaplain for Gateshead and Bensham, was roped in to assist and set about the task of rounding up some volunteers.

It wasn't the most straightforward of tasks. As one dog-collared volunteer confided with a disarming guffaw: "We were all stalling because there's a certain cynicism about artists ( and journalists. They are seen as dodgy geezers who you should tread carefully around."

But four Church of England clerics eventually gave Jim the nod and three of them ( plus Jim ( agreed to be interviewed by a dodgy geezer from this newspaper and have their photograph taken by another.

Rev Mark Worthington, vicar of Harlow Green and Lamesley (parishes lying, as he cheerfully puts it, "under the armpits of The Angel of the North"), Rev Val Shedden, vicar of Heworth and area dean of Gateshead, and Rev Bernice Broggio, recently retired rector of Bensham, posed in front of AraIjo's film, About Being Different, in which they star.

The fifth participant, Rev Canon Ray Knell, was on retreat so couldn't be present.

The four Anglicans explained that AraIjo, who once trained as an opera singer, had asked them to watch and listen to Benjamin Britten's opera Peter Grimes and had then handed them written questions to consider.

The film juxtaposes footage of them responding to the questions with moody shots of Gateshead rooftops and back lanes while Britten's music ebbs and flows magnificently.

The 18-minute film is rather moving. Britten's enigmatic opera, in which the unlikeable central character of the fisherman Grimes is driven to his death by the hostility and suspicion of fellow villagers, offers lots of food for thought.

"What came out of it for me was the fear and ostracisim of people who are different and I felt Peter Grimes was on the verge of mental illness," said Bernice Broggio. …

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