River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Another day Out In Norfolk

February 2004

Every year, the bradcaster LIBBY PURVIS mounts an exhibition of Christmas nativity scenes from around the world. This was the last year of the exhibition at South Walsham, but the exhibition will continue next year, hopefully at Ely Cathedral in 2004 and Bury St Edmunds in 2005.

Another Day out in Norfolk

Over Christmas I heard an interview on Radio Norfolk with Libby Purves in which she described her exhibition of Cribs From Around the World. Unfortunately, I must have been half asleep because I thought she said the exhibition was being held in Little Walsingham (Well, you must admit, that did seem to be a reasonable place for such an exhibition.)

Well after walking the hind legs off two disgruntled grandchildren and a long-suffering wife, I did what I should have done earlier and rang Radio Norfolk for precise directions. I wasn't far out; the Exhibition was being staged in the St Lawrence Centre at South Walsham a few miles outside Wroxham. The St Lawrence Centre is itself unusual, being one of two churches standing in the same village churchyard. St Mary's remains an active church, but St Lawrence which was almost destroyed by fire, has been

re-built to provide a training and meeting house.

We arrived at the St Lawrence centre just before mid-day on New Years Day. To our astonishment, admission was free and refreshments provided for a nominal donation. The exhibition itself comprised around sixty nativity scenes ranging from the primitive through an imaginative cardboard city to exquisite items from all over the world. Without doubt, some of the most colourful items were in the Santon de Provence range created by Michelle Andre who regrettably died last year. Apparently, Christmas is

particularly important in Provence but so to is the Puppet Theatre.

The result is the Santon de Provence which delightfully combinesthe two! Libby's involvement with Michelle Andre led to a meeting with model-maker Sue Damon and between them they decided to update the santons to modern Britain. The result is a stunning collage of figures, who range from nurses and mid-wives and dossers and beggars to recognisable individuals like Lady Thatcher. Libby has resolved never to replace the very scruffy box that houses the cardboard city until there are no homeless sleeping on British Streets at Christmas.

There were other delightful creations collected from around the world; tin scenes from Germany, ebony carvings from Tanzania, silver paper models from Poland and wooden scenes from Suffolk. Perhaps one of the most rare items was a nativity scene carved out of the tip of a matchstick by a craftsman in Santiago, Chile.

Our greatest surprise was the nativity scene from Chile, above,

depicting the baby Jesus standing up in his crib eating mush

from a spoon wielded by his mother Mary!

Over the years, the Libby Purves exhibition has raised

thousands of pounds for charity helping homeless young

people in Britain. Discussions are currently underway with Ely

Cathedral to hold the 2004 exhibition there and in 2005 it will move

on to Bury St Edmunds. Wherever it ends up, we will be sure to be there!

Readers may wish to confirm the final location for next years exhibition by contacting Gerry Wright at the Children's Society, 21, Church Close, South Walsham, Norwich NR13 6DW. Telephone 01603 270186.

Ray Thompson

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