Libby Purves opens crib exhibition

An exhibition of cribs from around the world was opened in St. Paul’s Church, Canterbury by Radio 4 presenter Libby Purves.
The unique collection has been built up over 30 years by the broadcaster and her family, and contains nativity scenes from over 40 countries.

They include a complete stable and figures set carved out of the head of a matchstick from San Salvador, to a village scene covering an entire table top from Provence, France.  Other delights include a relaxed nativity scene from Peru and a bustling Romany gypsy nativity.

Invited guests included Bishop Trevor, who offered a blessing for all those who had been involved in setting up the event and to all those who would visit in the coming days, and the Lord Mayor of Canterbury Sally Waters, who remarked that it was amazing to see how many countries were represented and how each scene conveyed something of their country of origin through their style and design.

Nearly two years’ in the planning, the exhibition came about after David and Gwyn Hartwell from St Paul’s Church, saw the exhibition when it was held at Ely Cathedral. After an approach to Libby Purves, they were delighted when she agreed to allow the collection to come to the church.

Libby Purves explained that the collection grew quite by accident:  “My mother gave me a Polish szopka, a miniature version of Krakow cathedral made of silver-paper, which is carried through the streets in the city in Advent.  The Holy Family occupies the main door. We found a huge szopka in Saxmundham market and then it seemed as if the cribs were starting to find me rather than the other way round. I kept spotting them in different places: here a Bangladeshi or Tanzanian set of figures in clay or ebony; there a Rwandan jacaranda set in a Lille junk-shop. Rapidly, the collection grew.”

The exhibition is being held in aid of The Children’s Society. Margaret Willmott, Diocesan President for The Children’s Society said: “I would encourage everyone to come and visit this stunning exhibition being held for a charity close to my heart. The Children’s Society is committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways and through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life.”

Local primary schools were invited to be part of the display by creating their own crib from whatever style and materials are appropriate. Visitors to the exhibition will be asked to vote for their favourite school crib, with a Waterstones book voucher for the winning entry.

The exhibition runs from Tuesday 1st to Friday 4th December, 10am-4pm, and on Saturday 5th December 10am-Noon.  Entrance is free, with donations welcomed for The Children’s Society.

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1 December 2015