Stone carver Iain Cotton’s updated website

by Geoff Hall on December 1, 2015

The Embrace, Copyright Iain Cotton, 2015.

The Embrace, Copyright Iain Cotton, 2015.

Iain Cotton has updated his website and would love for you to visit it and share it around your friends on social media. So, if you’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or have a blog and like to show quality work, then please show some images and links to Iain’s website.

From the Website:

“I specialise in hand carved lettering, stone carving and sculpture, working from my studio near Bath in the South West of England. I make headstones, cremation tablets, house signs, gifts and garden sculptures to commission. I have made work for the National Trust, and Memorials by Artists and I have work in the Art and Memory Collection at Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol, and in private collections in America, Japan, and the UK.
I design and carve my own letters by hand, because I want them to be human, full of life, and distinctive rather than mass produced.
I hope you like my work and enjoy this site.

For latest news from the workshop, visit my blog at

The Embrace, Copyright Iain Cotton, 2015.

The Embrace, Copyright Iain Cotton, 2015.


Simple Questions for Artists – #2

by Geoff Hall on November 30, 2015

November 2015 

Mentoring for word, image and performance arts.

Mentoring for word, image and performance arts.




We are following Seth Godin’s 4 simple questions for writers.

  1. Who are you?
  2. What is it for?
  3. Who is it for?
  4. Will it spread?


Whilst his focus was on writers, I think we could extend that to any of the arts.

Last month we focussed on ‘identity’ and who we are. This month we are looking at ‘What is it for?’

Godin’s view for the writer’s creativity is dynamic and not merely producing something for consumption.


He speaks of it like this,


“If this piece of writing works, what will change? What action will be taken?

The more specific you are in your intent…the more likely it is to succeed.”


What is my intent as a writer? Is it to amuse myself? To be locked up in my study and keep me out of mischief? To find a small but committed audience in Bristol? To change the way I perceive the world? Is the focus on ‘what serves me’?


This question challenges us about our intent as creators. It also asks of us, perhaps even demands from us, to create work which changes things, us, our audience, and the world.


Much of the mentoring I’ve had as a writer points me towards the realisation that universal stories create a wide audience and small stories, clever intricate and cannily fashioned ones have a limited audience appeal, perhaps for those who are part of an exclusive and elite cabal. Its language excludes others who are not in the know.


How much of what we create is destined for a sub-culture and not the cultural mainstream? We are perhaps conflicted if we speak of a universal story, but one which is dressed up in sub-cultural language and symbolism. The world of the sub-trope!


U2 - Innocence + Experience Tour 2015. (graffiti banner)

U2 – Innocence + Experience Tour 2015. (graffiti banner)










I went to see U2 at the 02 in London during October, with Richard Taylor. I think we agreed that the reports of their demise has been greatly exaggerated! We were treated to a 3 dimensional, multi-media performance. A massive two-sided LED screen hanging from a gantry, had a performance stage in between and was used to stunning effect, when the images fractured and allowed us to see their performance.


U2’s massive appeal is multi-generational; the music and its performance were woven evocatively with contemporary issues of violence and the refugee crisis.


We spoke to a young lad, aged 17, who had travelled from North Wales to see them. Apparently he’d been a fan since his birth! Another couple of die-hard U2 fans next to us asked if he was at the Pop Mart Tour gig at one particular venue. He said “No”. “Oh”, said the two guys who’d obviously toured the world watching the band. “That’s the day I was born!” came the reply.


So you see, if you focus on issues that matter, perform with passion and connect with your audience, then your career can have longevity and a wide appeal. What has changed because U2 do what they do? Well, I think the story of compassion, humanity and non-violence is reaching a new generation, whilst the older generation becomes bolder in working for peace. Their music is a catalyst for change, it embraces, it doesn’t push people away.


Has anything changed? Well, in Ireland it has! Bono testified to this. And I think when the ‘War’ album was being toured, it was songs like ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’ which had a worrying effect on the IRA and led the band to receive death threats, if they continued to be outspoken about the Troubles.


We can only bring what we carry in our hearts. Are we trying to create a fan club or change the world? If it is the latter, then firstly we have to carry that change within us. Then, it will be woven into what we produce.


Art isn’t about self-expression. Art isn’t just a product like wallpaper, to cover the cracks in our interior lives; it’s about asking deep questions at the heart of humanity and society. It should provoke, ask difficult questions, and be a voice of lament for those wounded by ‘armies of justice’, by Governments and factions. For all those who say they represent ‘us’ seem to be bent on violence and the destruction of the ‘other’. They apparently work in ‘our name’. Why then is there such a divide between what the people want and what those people do?


It’s time for us to realise that there’s a bigger story than expressing our disappointments, fears and hurts. We have to be a voice for the voiceless and help them to seek, to be a people of peace, justice and healing.


And so I’ll return to Richard Rohr’s prayer for ourselves, our friends and family and all people of the earth.


May we be free from inner and outer harm and danger.

May we be safe and protected.

May we be free of mental suffering or distress.

May we be happy.

May we be free of physical pain and suffering.

May we be healthy and strong.

May we be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, with ease.


May we be intentional artists!

Be Well.


Simple Questions for Artists #1 – Enough of survival…it’s overrated!

by Geoff Hall on October 27, 2015

October 2015 – Enough of survival…

An article full of quotes.

The Group logo, designed by Barry Dunnage

The Group logo, designed by Barry Dunnage


I think survival is overrated, how about you?

“I have come that you have Life, so that you may survive”, doesn’t come into it. I think living life to the full, means that it isn’t about reducing it all to a survival plan. We have to have an idea of how to thrive.


I received one of Seth Godin’s emails entitled ‘Simple Questions for Writers’, the other week which I shared on The Group’s Facebook page,

  1. Who Are you?
  2. What is it for?
  3. Who is it for?
  4. Will it spread?


I’ve changed the order of those questions to start with ‘Who are you’? Why? Because being a writer, an artist, starts with knowing what you bring, not what you do. So over the next four monthly letters I’ll be following these questions, because I think it will help us grasp the nature of the task before us.

At times of course it does feel like we’re just surviving, but maybe we pay too much attention to survival skills, rather than the four questions set before us; moving from survival to thriving in our cultural calling.

Richard Rohr wrote that ‘only transformed people can transform people’. (From his Daily Meditations, 8th August, 2015). It struck a chord in me and it reminded me of another similar pithy statement, by Jacques Ellul “you cannot bring justice if you are not just.”

All the guns in the world will not bring peace, only the peacemakers will create peace. Martin Luther King said that ‘Violence will only bring violence, hate will only bring hate.’ The peace we bring has to be within us. What you bring, tells us who you are.


One of the best descriptions I’ve found was from Sufi poet Rumi, who said that we are the ‘shadow of love’ on the earth. I think that’s a beautiful analogy. The One we love is indeed Love and it is through love that we know ourselves. Tom Wright calls it the epistemology of love. Only through loving with all your heart, mind, soul and strength will you know who you are. This can be problematic if like me, your experience is one of survival, when love seems to be of the unrequited kind.  Which brings me back to Richard Rohr, who quoted CG Jung and this little gem,


“The greater light you have the greater shadow you cast.”


To cast that shadow of love we have to be close to the light, reflecting it like a mirror to a world clothed in the darkness of an unrelenting violence.

Seth Godin’s question ‘Who are you?’ focused on the ‘what’ of what we do and not the ‘who’ of what we do. Whilst we could wax eloquently and mystically about who we are, the starting point for this knowledge is to be found in Love, not of the text, but at the core of my – our – being. A clue to our calling is to be found in this mystery and when our work meets the public gaze, it must be with this knowledge at heart, otherwise all we are is copyists and propagandists.

This mystery is best explored in stillness and not in theological or philosophical discourse and certainly not in the power of rationalising this or that argument. As Rohr would say, it’s about practice and not a belief-system. It is through stillness that we can know and that in knowing we will be transformed, because transformation never comes through ignorance.

My Name is Sorrow title, as designed by Chris Lorensson. 2012

My Name is Sorrow title, as designed by Chris Lorensson. 2012

I had a bit of an epiphany a few years ago, during the production of ‘My Name Is Sorrow’, that the focus of my work as a writer should be on ‘justice’ and so my emphasis has changed to a focus on human rights and social justice. This doesn’t mean making endless campaign films, but actually in the genres I want to pursue storytelling in, it was kind of liberating.


Liberating because there’s a lot of noise being made in Los Angeles about blending genres, of fusing together tropes, themes and genres to create new imaginative stories. There’s even chatter about telling Transmedia stories, that is, telling tales across media platforms –  but more of that at a later date. The digital revolution gives ‘we the artists’ a greater scope for our creativity. This is the environment then of thriving and not surviving; of moving away from a dissatisfied coping, moving beyond being tenacious or resilient and actually ‘feeling the love’, rather than hearing other people talking about it.

And Finally, Richard Rohr suggests we speak this out loud to ourselves and then change the ‘I’ to a friend or family member.


May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger.

May I be safe and protected.

May I be free of mental suffering or distress.

May I be happy.

May I be free of physical pain and suffering.

May I be healthy and strong.

May I be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, with ease.


So, who are you? And what do you bring to this broken world?

Your own wounds or the knowledge that you’re loved without question. Your art needs no human justification and to be an artist, neither do you!


Be Well.



What gets you up in the morning…

by Geoff Hall on September 30, 2015

September 2015 – What gets you up in the morning…

Mentoring in Word, Image and Performance Art.

Mentoring in Word, Image and Performance Art.

Living your life as an artist will invariably lead you to thoughts of calling it a day. How long can you go on in the face of scepticism from family, friends and those (apparently) with ‘spiritual authority’? How long can you keep the flame of creativity burning when your spiritual community doesn’t ‘get it’ and can’t support you?


When confronted with the kindergarten spirituality of the institutional church today, we find a God who strangely thinks exactly the same way we do; about ourselves, our work, our loves and needs for gratification, but this doesn’t prepare us for the big world outside of Church.


William Blake's 'Illustrations from the Book of Job. (1826)

William Blake’s ‘Illustrations from the Book of Job. (1826)

In the face of having three stalled projects on my list of achievements, I am not confronted with a God who shows smiley faced love, but more of what Job called ‘the watcher of men’. He wasn’t believing that God was absent, but more that God didn’t act to save his family, or his health. (In fact he thought God’s presence was oppressive!) And whilst his friends told him he was obviously hiding some dreadful sin and that if he repented, his fortune would be restored, Job wasn’t after that. He just wanted to hear from God.


There is no answer it seems, for why an omnipotent God doesn’t act, but then out of the blue, invests money in what can only be considered poor taste in music and art. Why our gifts are given but remain foetal, unborn in this world despite our greatest endeavours to take our them seriously, is a mystery.


But Paul of Tarsus may help us here. A while back he wrote a letter to a bunch of people in the very ancient city of Philippi. The city was established by Philip II, king of Macedon so that he could take control of the neighbouring gold mines and establish a garrison at a strategic passage between Amphipolis and Neapolis. Paul, being a bit of a philosopher, ‘penned’ a little autobiographical information about his situation and future aims. He may even be able to encourage us today and help this nagging ‘why?’ question.


“…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means I may obtain to the resurrection from the dead.”


So, I woke up this morning having spoken to a good friend (and let fly a little) and decided that if my current situation may be more akin to Paul’s death wish(!) then I can trust that the resurrection bit will eventually be part of my artistic experience.


If I am to be like the lover of my soul, then both of these ‘life in extremis’ elements are also to be a part of me. If it wasn’t unusual for Jesus,, then I must follow.


This means that if all else fails, and it is at the moment, then I will do what I’m called to do…and write. I will complete my second novel and the first draft of the next feature length film. I will not succumb to the dark night of the soul, nor those dark morning variations, when all I want to do is stay in bed and pull my head under the covers.


I will write. I will fulfil my calling and will trust that ‘sharing in His sufferings’ is not the low-budget, package tour deal of life. I will not give up on my calling, because a calling is not just about what you do, but about who you are.

Any thoughts?

Be Well.


William Blake, Illustrations from The Book of Job. (1826)

William Blake, Illustrations from The Book of Job. (1826)

making the invisible visible

by Geoff Hall on August 27, 2015

Mentoring for word, image and performance art.

Mentoring for word, image and performance art.




AUGUST, 2015.

“…a feat [which] once required night escapades by a few trained and adventurous graffiti artists: [that of] making the invisible visible, rendering the neglected, ignored and abandoned blatantly, jarringly present…”  Zygmunt Bauman and David Lyon ‘Liquid Surveillance’ p130. Polity Press, 2013.

'Liquid Surveillance' by Zygmunt Bauman & David Lyon. Polity. 2013.

‘Liquid Surveillance’ by Zygmunt Bauman & David Lyon. Polity. 2013.


My thoughts this month focus on the artist as subversive graffiti artist. I’ve read and re-read chunks of Bauman and Lyon’s wonderful book, trying to make sense of our cultural and social ‘situation’.

For us as a Group  of course, making the invisible visible has incarnational echoes; in Jesus making the invisible God visible. Richard Rohr recently wrote that Jesus came to show us what it was like to be fully human. If that’s the case, I have a long way to go, but maybe that kind of redemption is a future hope and something we run towards, or maybe limp?


We have all seen the dreadful gun attacks in the USA, on a French train and the day-to- day cataclysm of the Middle-East, where the road to violence is paved with ignorance. We can see injustices in our own country, which has the highest levels of child poverty in Europe and a whole bundle of other things.

Bauman and Lyon’s words resonated with me as a writer and I hope to you as artists of multitudinous mediums. Our work should make what is neglected, ignored and abandoned…and let’s say hidden by Governments, visible. It should be ‘shouted from the rooftops’.

If our concern is for injustice and not just making art as self-expression, then our work should reveal what is happening. I watched a documentary called ‘What do artists do all day?” the other night on BBC4 and the artist said something that caught my ear. “Don’t make political art, make art political.” You can check out the programme here:

BBC iPlayer

(Sadly this link has been removed, darn it, so you can’t share in my excitement. Sorry! But this is a link to the series.)

I think that’s a challenge for all of us and not something which comes easily. But it is worthy of our consideration and deepening conversation.

Now one last thing about the incarnation and here it is: It’s not just what we make that’s making the invisible visible, but who we are. For people to see the invisible God, we must be visiblly different; evocative, imaginative, mysterious not obvious, compassionate not judgemental, allusive and yet touchable. This should sound familiar. However, we can’t do it alone; we must work together to reach our goal.

Be Well.


Is community still possible?

by Geoff Hall on August 3, 2015

Mentoring for word, image and performance art.

Mentoring for word, image and performance art.




July, 2015.

In a response to Sheona’s guest blog article, I commented about my desire for community; whilst we understand that we make things in isolation from each other in the hope of one day making the work public. But our calling and vocation is not to work in an hermetic bubble, but like a body, strengthening and inspiring one another.

So, I’d like to ponder the question as to whether we still believe that community is possible and if we think it is, then what would it look like? Or has society become so atomised that we can no longer connect?

Much of  human relations that we now experience have been institutionalised, be it in the form of the hierarchical structures of church, or NGO’s such as the Arts Council. Everywhere we go, there’s a hierarchy of people having ‘authority’ over us, telling us how to make art and what ‘the message’ should be.

Within the Arts Mentoring Group community is probably best expressed by the times we share together at the Tree House and such adventures as the exhibition (“Set All Free”) at the Grant Bradley Gallery in Bedminster, way back in 2007. Along with this I found I belonged to a church that was actually asking people to leave; an interesting tactic when ones only agenda is ‘church planting’!!

I now belong to a smaller community which meets every other month or so, at a coffee shop in Broadmead and which we have christened “Saint Caffeine’s” along with this I have friends(!)  who pop around to watch a film, drink tea or beer, eat chocolate and sometimes we pray for one another.

Jeanette and I talked last week about this thing called ‘community’ and whether or not churches actually personified community or membership; where you don’t have an identity, just a number. We also pondered what we thought this allusive life together is. Our conclusions were, I have to say, anti-institutional and non-hierarchical. We moved along the lines of community based on a common unity, of shared commitments to care for one another, to God and whatever we are called to work as; a writer, a health-care professional, an artist, musician, teacher, a mother, a father. It’s a community of everyday life.

It wasn’t based on the naive model of community, the kind where we all live in one big house, share the bills and the income and provide a babysitting service.

Yes, our sense of community had a geographical component, namely closeness, so that care and encouragement were not an hour’s journey away. No one was the boss, no sanctified position of a ‘leader’ above us. Community comes with a warning though. Here are the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his book ‘Life Together’:

“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community… Let him who is not in community beware of being alone… Each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair.”

And here are some words of encouragement:

“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.

"Head of a Black Woman" 1910. A Postcard dates 15.5.10

“Head of a Black Woman” (Ernst Ludwig Kirchner) 1910. A Postcard dated 15.5.10

I noted many years ago a community of artists called ‘Die Brücke’ where the sense of artistic community was very inspirational. Scattered across a city, (Dresden or Berlin) they would send each other postcards to show their latest projects. A simple way of keeping in touch,discussing aesthetics or planning a meeting, but which also expressed something of their vocation as artists.

The Impressionists in Paris were well-known for meeting in cafés, discussing art, politics and society. And yes maybe imbibing a little too much French wine!

These are but a few ways of expressing life together. In the 21st Century, how do we achieve this? Has society become so fragmented and our lives so self-interested that we can no longer connect.


I’m cast back to Bonhoeffer’s words; that the starting point of community is that we love those around us. May we be of the same mind.

Be Well.




Phoenix-Flare – New Tracks

by Geoff Hall on August 1, 2015

Phoenix- Flare on Bandcamp.


James and Chris have released two new tracks with their band Phoenix-Flare and you can now purchase ‘Tides and Seasons’ and ‘Self-destruct’ HERE.


Phoenix-Flare Interval











Will artists have patrons in heaven?

by Geoff Hall on July 28, 2015

Hi Everyone,

I’d like to thank Sheona Beaumont for being our guest blogger. This is the last in the series of three articles from Sheona, focusing on her residency at Trinity Theological College in Bristol. Whilst the title may surprise you and you may even think it has a ready-made answer, please read on! Gx


"Lenten Spring" Copyright 2015, Sheona Beaumont.

“Lenten Spring” Copyright 2015, Sheona Beaumont.

Maundy Thursday in Trinity College sees the finishing of my Lenten installation in the dining room – a progressive installation where I’ve daily been putting up photographs of bulbs growing, both day and night. As always with Lent, it’s symbolic of a journey, and in this case it’s been a journey that has led through challenge and reflection with regard to the wider support for artists in their practice today. It’s fitting that I’m suggesting parallels with Lent and Maundy Thursday in particular, because most artists are sole practitioners, ploughing an individual, singular and sometimes lonely furrow; and most artists maintain a kind of interior spirituality that stays hidden.

Before I get where I’m going, I do want to emphasise that this is a good thing, and normal, and true. The spiritual landscape of prayer and connection to God that Jesus practiced was often done in solitude, and was often ‘slow’ time. By which I mean that he resisted the world’s values of being ‘on it’ the whole time, of being always visible in his doing, of needing to build in justification for his singular life. Artists can be examples of this resistance too, which, although it opens us up to misunderstanding of all sorts, remains a positive and VERY culturally necessary thing.

The problems that can arise, as I’ve found them, are to do with a lack of trust that this is ok – a kind of self-destructive, victim mentality can change how we feel about our invisibility. ‘What’s the point? – No-one wants to buy/champion/visit my work.’ When I had to move this Lenten installation, a third of the way through, from its original starting place in a corridor (because some other work of mine had been allocated the space, in a very wobbly exchange relating to miscommunication and unsaid expectations), I really struggled with the motivation to put it up anywhere else at all. I went from feeling the wind behind me, to feeling like everything involved battling the wind. Not just this work in this situation, but I started to question all my aims with my work, all my ability in keeping a project together, and finally took on the assumption that in order to avoid future hurt/failure I had better exert my singularity with a programmatic self-control: lists, deadlines, working harder. At this point, and only very recently, I realised that (good) solitude had turned into (bad) isolation.

Now a logical answer to this situation, if you asked the artist, would probably be patronage. The answer is support – practical, financial, emotional, verbal. And ABSOLUTELY artists can’t and don’t live in a vacuum, we make work for the showing/telling/engaging/living. There is a massive crashing together of idealism with realism here, often uncomfortably so, and it is certainly the case that artists find themselves having to educate their friends/buyers/employers with respect to their needs. Even here at Trinity, where in one light I’m the beneficiary of patronage on a plate for a limited time (studio space and an engaging community), in truth there are deeper cultural gaps in understanding and it’s not the simple answer you might think.

Ultimately, I have to go back to practising trust. Ultimately, when Jesus reached his crunch moment of isolation and misunderstanding on Maundy Thursday, ‘knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, he loved to the end’ (John 13:1-3ish). All things into our hands? Yes, ALL things into our hands. The patronage from heaven is already here.


Please add your comments below by using the cunningly named ‘COMMENTS’ tag! Gx

And check out Sheona’s blog.

The Black Sun of Violence

by Geoff Hall on June 30, 2015

Mentoring in Word, Image and Performance Art.

Mentoring in Word, Image and Performance Art.


“There’s whiskey in the water

And there is death upon the vine

There’s grace within forgiveness

But it’s so hard for me to find.”


Such has been the events of last week, with a plethora of terrorist attacks from Kuwait to Tunisia, that there is not one place on earth it seems, that isn’t filled with violence, or resounds to the sound of gunfire or bomb blasts – in the name of some higher cause or other and the pathetic way people have of justifying violence. But the claiming of democracy, justice or a higher power for a cause is reaching its breaking point. This account is long overdrawn.


In the light of this darkness, there seems an increasing urgent need for us to be vigilant with our gifts; to not hide that light under the proverbial bushel. Some of us may experience that sense of God being the one who hides the light: for we’d love to get ‘out there’, but we don’t have the resources to do so? Tell me about it! Whilst we may have this sense of urgency I dare say God hasn’t. God isn’t panicking, worried or having increasing anxiety about losing control.


With the darkness of the Black Sun, a song sung by my favourite band, (cited above), it seems that there is death upon the vine. The song incorporates a sense of our addictions, of a contaminated water supply for the alcoholic, or that the wine is poison from the vine. This also has perhaps an allegorical meaning for us quite different from the writer’s intent. We can also look at this in a spiritual and cultural context to see that even the most natural of things, can prove to be our downfall.


“How could, something so fair, be so cruel?”


The seeming threat to us of Postmodern philosophy, discussed at the last Tree House is perhaps only there because our redemption narrative is so influenced by Modernism’s reliance on power and authority; the very thing ecclesia these days is founded upon. The Vine is poisoned with a deathly virus, no wonder few wish to taste the new wine we keep pouring. We look on to the recent horrific acts of terrorism and wonder how we can go on thinking that somehow the 21st Century is superior, more advanced, more ‘civilised’ than anything which has gone before.


And yet we feel the need to do something about it, to engage with the deep-seated problems of what it is these days to be human, to be peacemakers. We are currently mere onlookers, viewers of the most horrendous inhumanity. The water is contaminated, the wine too. The salt has lost its savour and how then will we be effective in this world of bestial violence?

What is a writer, a filmmaker, a poet, a musician to do? What is an artist to do when the light appears like darkness on the horizon and then envelops us? When the salt locked away in the salt cellar is of no use, even when it is released?

William Blake, Job's wise friends, erm, accusers!

William Blake, Job’s wise friends, erm, accusers!


We need to ask the hard questions, the ones which we have no answer for. We do it like Job, not because he wanted to hear the sound, wise advice of his friends, but because what he actually longed for was to hear from One voice only.

As the darkness ensues, we cannot be presumptuous and take the lead. We…sadly…have to wait, and that may be the only answer to this current dilemma. We either have the resources we need for our light to shine in the darkness, or it will not shine at all and then there is no use for the One voice to complain about the darkness.

Ben Gibbard, the writer of the song cited atop of this letter speaks of there being “grace within forgiveness, but it’s so hard for me to find.” I think our work in the arts should make that grace easier to find.

However, that means we have to be that grace and we have to be the peace of the peacemaker. We cannot bring it, if we do not live it. We cannot be judgemental; working with others from a position of authority or power is not the way. Ours is a role of serving humanity in humility, not ruling over it with our superior morals. Too many have walked that way and it leads to violence, to abuse, to destruction and there is just too much of that around. ‘For the earth is filled with violence…’ We seem to have heard this before somewhere, but then this is our day, so what shall we do about it?

Listen for the voice of the One.


Be Well.



A visual theology of the Kingdom

by Geoff Hall on June 16, 2015

'Kingdom Series' Sheona Beaumont. Copyright, 2015

‘Kingdom Series’ Sheona Beaumont. Copyright, 2015


When I gave out 25 disposable cameras to the Trinity College community in the autumn of 2014, I had every thought that I’d need to work a pronounced visual transformation in the results. But the messy, humorous, half-in-half-out, blurred faces and limbs in fact turned out to be the corporeal truth of this place. There is certainly a spirituality here that is rarefied and abstract (in music, conversation or essays), but these pictures reveal an embodied spirituality that is shared in food, in play, in the overlapping of life and space. I like the symbolism too of the underexposed images – approximately half of all the photographs look like a dark fog, where the camera flash was either not used, or was ineffective. ‘Through a glass darkly’ is quite literal here at Trinity! See YouTube for a slideshow I’ve put together of some of the unmodified images.

As I spent time looking through the images, four themes emerged: the Kingdom is backwards, unseen, hungry and little.

The Kingdom is Hungry is a collage from the multitude of eating and drinking photographs that were taken – there were more of these than anything else. The Kingdom as a feast is a key image in the Gospels, and the party at Trinity College happens over every meal and every communion and every cup of tea. Even as the circular form suggests togetherness, the spiral moves outward and upside-down to include honoured guests. Needing physical sustenance is a key focus for spiritual life here. See here for more on the process of making this piece.

The Kingdom is Unseen shows the negative space of figures cut out from photographs. There are 5 groups of people whose ‘unseenness’ in the community was incredibly visible to me, who are found out in the Kingdom: (from left to right) The unborn who will come after us (there were 11 pregnancies amongst the community at the time), the quiet administrators, the leaders who have gone before us, those who didn’t want their photographs taken for this project, and the noisy caretakers. Jesus’ Kingdom made a big deal of those on the edges of society, and those who shrink from physical sight are nevertheless seen where they are.

The Kingdom is Little captures 4 children from Trinity College Day Nursery from above. In their littleness, ‘The Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’ – they are central to a Kingdom community. To notice them, we need to physically look down and the perspective change of a view in plan (rather than a view in profile) is a reminder not of adult aloofness and control but of childish absorption and delight. Littleness can be everything.

The Kingdom is Backwards highlights the physical viewpoint of those photographs where people sit in lectures, in chapel or in churches on placement. When people listened to Jesus speaking, there must have been a similar view facing the backs of others. As much as Trinity is training leaders to be at the front, it is this view that remains unique to the Kingdom’s focus: to positions of humility with each other and to the Old Testament echoes of the back of God. It’s not the place where you can’t see. It’s the place where you can see.

Each theme in this Kingdom series includes a cut-out style (to bring single colour themes to prominence) and a small visual icon as a point of focus. There is a glass of wine, a crozier, toy fish and an altar cross. These icons are directional in that each piece stresses the physicality of looking – we move beyond the contemplation of symbol into the embodiment of symbol. These are symbols which move, are lifted up, are consumed or carried or played with. ‘Living like the Kingdom is near’ (Trinity’s new logo) has that abundance and holistic embrace of life.

Sheona Beaumont