Stratford Herald December 2017

December 2017

Alternativity, a feast for Christmas, a service of carols and readings organised by the Hosking Houses Trust

Celebrate Jesus, Dickens and the Welfare State!

If you are up for a bit of Christmas magic, then you could do no better than go along to see Alternativity at Stratford’s Guild Chapel on Saturday, 2nd December, at 6pm.

The fun annual service is organised by Sarah Hosking and the Reverend Paul Edmondson, of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and this year takes on the themes of A Christmas Carol — playing down the road at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from next week, coincidentally enough!

Alternativity will be compered by the soprano Catherine Bott, and will feature some unusual and fun readings, an opportunity to sing some classic carols, and listen to the choir. This year King’s High Junior Chamber Choir will be lending their voices to the service.

Former King’s High girl, Sarah, who runs the Hosking Houses Trust, the Clifford Chambers-based charity that supports women writers, explains the idea behind the A Christmas Carol theme to Herald arts.

“GK Chesterton said the two greatest stories ever written were St Luke’s Gospel and A Christmas Carol.”

She continues: “I’ve done a study of A Christmas Carol, which started as a polemic against child labour and so we are looking at poverty, feast and frolic, fantasy and then conversion.

“There’s lots of Biblical allusions and a lot of other allusions too. Dickens was brilliant at psychology.”

Sarah says she is fascinated to look at the supposed inspiration the novel had on William Beveridge in forming the welfare state.

“We’re looking at A Christmas Carol, not from a religious point of view, but at mid-Victorian attitudes to food, poverty and fantasy,” she explains.

“The story takes us on a fascinating psychological journey — there are eight ghosts in it, which is strange! And it reveals the Victorian attitude to conversion.

“Scrooge meets the two ‘creatures’, Ignorance and Want, and sees his own deathbed and grave and is scared into asking ‘Can I change?’. We will be looking at all these issues that are still around today.”

During the service mulled wine and Italian biscuits will be served. Money raised will go to Hosking Houses Trust, which this year celebrated supporting their 90th writer.

Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s statement that ‘A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’, Sarah set up the charity in 1995 to offer women writers a rent-free residency at a fully-equipped cottage in Clifford Chambers, and a bursary of £1,000 a month.

Writers of many genres have benefitted from the charity, including poet Wendy Cope, broadcaster Joan Bakewell, and novelist Maria McCann, who is currently in residence.

During the festive season Sarah’s father’s hand-made crib will have pride of place at Guild Chapel. Both her parents, Dick and Alma Ramsey Hosking, were artists and both made cribs — her mum’s is in Coventry Cathedral.

Sarah tells us about how her father’s came to Stratford: “Dad was head of Coventry Art College from 1948 to 1965.
“His work can be seen in Leamington Art Gallery and Museum. He could make anything, and he made this crib out of wood and sawdust around 1955.

“For years and years it was in St Mary’s in Warwick, but was eventually returned to us and the structure fell to bits. Dad died in 1991 and I thought it was too good to throw away and kept it in the cellar until last year, and I thought it was just the ticket for the Guild Chapel.”

The Town Trust paid for the crib’s renovation, and it is hoped that it will continue to be part of local celebrations for many more years to come.

“I have fond memories of seeing the crib during services growing up in Warwick,” says Sarah.
“It really is an amazing thing: the baby Jesus’s face is just heart-melting!”

See the baby Jesus for yourself and celebrate Dickens, Christmas, women writers, and the welfare state next Saturday at the chapel!

WHERE AND WHEN: Alternativity takes place at the Guild Chapel, Stratford, on Saturday, 2nd December at 6pm. Donations welcome.