Christ in the Centre, Leicester
A crowd of approaching 10,000 people witnessed Leicester’s Christ in the Centre presentation – and were rewarded with a performance of great emotion and passion. Christ in the Centre – a dramatic recreation of Christ’s passion, trial, crucifixion and resurrection - has been staged in the city centre every year since 2003, making it one of the longest-running such events in the UK. The size of the crowd also makes it among the biggest such events.
This year cast and audience enjoyed bright sunshine – a stark contrast with the cold and wet conditions in which it has been held some previous years. Despite its size, the entire production is organised by an ecumenical team of volunteers, a theme reflected in the prayers that opened and closed the event. Local churches invested into the event and it really was a demonstration of unity and a chance to share the Easter story publically.
After a welcome from the Anglican Bishop of Leicester Tim Stephens, the opening prayer was delivered by Rev Terry Oakley, Moderator of the United Reformed Church.At the event’s conclusion the closing prayer was delivered by the Rt Rev Malcolm McMahon, Roman Catholic Bishop of Nottingham. The Rt Rev Peter Hancock, Chairman of the Northamptonshire Methodist District was also in attendance throughout the event.
This year’s production - which was again signed for the hard of hearing - featured a new lead actor Walt Kissack, in the role of Jesus, leading an otherwise entirely amateur cast from churches across Leicestershire and neighbouring counties. It also featured a new first act – written by James Burke-Dunsmore, the writer, director and actor who has previously directed the performance and played the role of Jesus, but who was unavailable to take the title role this year.
Act One was staged at St Peters Square in the new HighCross retail development, and portrayed stories on the theme of hospitality and sharing, with a mix of Old and New testament stories, including Elijah feeding the widow and her son, the wedding at Caanan and the feeding of the five thousand.
Cast and audience then processed down the city’s High Street to the main stage in Humberstone Gate, where Christ’s passion, arrest, trial and resurrection were portrayed.
Canon Barry Naylor, who chairs the organising committee, says this year’s event was among the best received and most dramatic ever, and was delighted with the size of the audience.
Lead actor Walt Kissack was amazed at the audience’s reaction: “It is astonishing to look out from the stage at 10,000 people and see their reaction – how enthused and appreciative they are. Sharing this celebration with them was wonderful”.