Local community spirit spotted – and God Knows Calne needs something

Faced with the annual headache of explaining to a class of eager pupils – and their even more eager parents – that there can only be one Mary and one Joseph, many teachers take a few liberties with the other roles, often casting a small army of angels, shepherds, wise men.

But now one town has taken that unofficial British tradition to a whole new level, inviting the entire population to join in – and earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records in the process.

Previously perhaps the best claim to fame of the town of Calne, near Chippenham in Wiltshire, was the fact that the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once lived there.

But now it can legitimately claim to rival lapland as the world’s Christmas capital, after persuading a record breaking 1,254 people, all of them residents of the town to dress up in traditional nativity play costumes as either wise men – or women – shepherds or angels.

While most of those taking part made their own costumes, preparations created a town-wide shortage of bed sheets.

The local launderette, Laundromagic, stepped in providing dozens of sheets, while a sewing group sprang up in the local pub, the White Hart, making costumes for weeks in advance.

But with less than an hour to go until the record attempt, organisers realised they were still around 100 sheets short, prompting a desperate dash around houses on the town’s Green asking residents to rifle through their laundry cupboards to meet the shortage.

To radically increase the numbers from here the trick would be to have three thousand wise men. Not something you’re going to find in Calne of course but Bath could rustle up that to travel from the East, from say Sydney Gardens to the Abbey Churchyard where the scene itself is played out.

One advantage of that route being that there aren’t too many pubs along it, meaning it would still be the Christmas spirit motivating.

21 thoughts on “Local community spirit spotted – and God Knows Calne needs something”

  1. Not very diverse, is it? Expect a sniffy article about this on Comment is Free soon. “Calne Muslims fear backlash”, etc.

  2. I was just about to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this blatant cultural appropriation. but rob got there first.

  3. …three thousand wise men…

    Once you begin to scale up like this, you simply cannot afford to ignore diversity targets.

  4. Used to know a bloke who worked up there. His job was taking a chainsaw to the stomachs of newly dead pigs. Not the most lovely of mental images but what must be done to produce bacon must, obviously, be done.

  5. Since the pig factory closed (where Wiltshire cured ham was invented, fact fans) Calne has been one of the most deprived boroughs in Europe

  6. @Tim / Flatcap

    That other centre of Wiltshire pork processing – Trowbridge hasn’t been the same without its Bowyers factory either…

    For all the Wiltshire ham on deli counters across the land – there must be only a tiny amount of actual Wiltshire ham there…

    The history is of some small note

  7. I’m reminded that i played a shark in the school nativity play…

    I missed the shark bit in the Nativity.

    …three thousand wise men…

    signed an open letter to the Guardian arguing for Britain to join the Euro.

  8. I’m surprised they’re still allowed to teach the story of Mary and Joseph, and not the one about Mary and Josephine.

  9. “one of the most deprived boroughs” is a bloody irksome usage. If you mean poor, say poor. Nobody has deprived it of anything, it’s just that the locals seem unable to generate prosperity.

  10. Bloke in Costa Rica

    If they’re scaling things up by two orders of magnitude then surely the limiting logistical factor in Calne is going to be finding a hundred virgins.

  11. 3000 wise men being deported back to the middle east you say? They must be the doctors and engineers that we keep being promised.

    I’ll bet that there was a bloody deluge of shepherds and goat herders mind!

  12. “deprived” is a bureaucrat’s term.

    It is; but that doesn’t make it any less unacceptable. It may be officialese, but it is Marxist – or, at least, socialist – in its implications. If someone is “deprived” of x, then they have been prevented from acquiring x or had x taken way from them. Applied to groups or areas, the term implies that others have behaved badly and so they should share their wealth with the “deprived” by state-enforced redistribution.

    They are poor – or relatively poor in Calne. Perhaps ‘disadvantaged’, but they are certainly not “deprived”.

  13. Bloke in North Dorset

    “Faced with the annual headache of explaining to a class of eager pupils – and their even more eager parents – that there can only be one Mary and one Joseph”

    My wife taught Reception/Year 1 for a number of years and the stories about competitive parents putting pressure on them to get their kids lead roles were frightening. It was even worse when hand held video cameras came out and everyone wanted to spend time running round filming title Johnny and Jenny. The ban on video cameras was nothing to do with peados, it was about the safety of everyone else and making sure everyone could watch the play.

    She did have some good stories though. One of the best was the time they thought Mary had forgotten the doll that was baby Jesus. Mary and Joseph were sat on chairs and at the point Mary had to produce baby Jesus she lifted her long dress and pulled the doll out from between he legs. Apparently the audience was paralysed trying not to burst in to laughter. She said the teachers had to turn their backs.

  14. Bloke in Costa Rica

    I was a shepherd. David Busby said something well out of order (but sotto voce) so I hit him with my lamb. My mother still brings that up 45 years later.

  15. For music fans of a certain age and disposition, I believe “arch-drood” Julian Cope resides in Calne.

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