Bishop Auckland’s giant advent calendar, organised by Bishop Auckland Town Team, has started to open up once more in the town. The first window was revealed at the Auckland Tower during the Town Council’s Christmas Lights Switch On Event on November 29th. A highly colourful model of Joseph, the son of Jacob, was made appropriately by St Joseph’s RCVA Primary School in Coundon.  Pupils at the school commented: “When we first heard we were making Joseph for the Nativity, we thought it was OUR St Joseph… but this is another Joseph – one of the sons of Jacob. We really enjoyed learning about THIS Joseph and despite our sticky hands, we enjoyed making the figure with Laura.”  Laura Brenchley the project artist has been leading workshops with schools and community groups.

This is the first of 13 models of the famous paintings of  Jacob and His Twelve Sons by the Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán. All of the Zurbaráns will be ‘starring’ as characters from the Christmas story. Joseph, who was the governor of Syria is starring as Quirinius, the governor of Egypt who carried out the census which set Joseph and Mary off on their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The window was unveiled by Bob and Stefa McManners who have a close association both with the school and the Zurbarán paintings.

Mrs Sue Snowdon, Lord-Lieutenant of Co Durham opened the window at Bondgate Galleries on Monday 2nd December, which featured a model made by Cockton Hill Primary school of Levi starring as Zechariah, the High Priest and father of St John the Baptist the cousin of Jesus. Sue Snowdon said, “This is a rather special project which gives children a real understanding of the importance of Advent, a wonderful time when we prepare for the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. Today really was a celebration and I was delighted that I could be part of it.”

On Christmas Eve all the models will be collected and paraded through the streets during THE GREAT ALTERNATIVITY ADVENT WINDOWS CHRISTMAS EVE PARADE! The event starts at 10:30 at the Stan Laurel statue in Princes Street and ends at St Peter’s Chapel in Auckland Castle where the alterNATIVITY scene will be assembled and the final model of Jesus and the crib will be unveiled by The Bishop of Durham. The alterNATIVITY scene will be on view over the holiday period until January 5th.