Picture a guy and a guitar and a retelling of the book of Jonah. How does that grab you? Well, with a talented performer steering you through the waves, it’s a pretty captivating experience.
Here at the Bedford Sputnik Hub we managed to snaffle a visit from David Benjamin Blower, a Birmingham-based ‘six-string theologian, writer and town crier’ and get a taste of his ability to tell a story vividly through sound. The text is taken from the King James Version, interspersed with original songs, and on this occasion the whole thing was underscored using an acoustic guitar that cost a fiver from a second hand shop. The set up was simple – a room with a group of people gathered on a semicircle of chairs to listen. Nothing more was needed.
David performs The Book of Jonah in lounges, bars and various other settings where there is an audience willing to listen (and even, at a couple of points during the performance, to help create a soundscape). He says that it’s for everyone and has found that the mention of God doesn’t seem to result in awkward uneasiness. After all, most people, whether familiar with the Bible or not so much, do love a good story.
There was a feeling among us all that the spiritual and secular ‘divide’ in our culture is more blurred than we’ve ever seen
Not only that – we’ve all heard about Jonah, the man who was swallowed by a whale. And as David pointed out (and we agreed) there’s a lot about Jonah’s response to God’s command that we can relate to as human beings. It’s a very understandable reaction to leg it in the opposite direction when faced with a hugely difficult and unappealing task. It came home to me more than ever how much I would respond in the same way Jonah did when David mentioned that present-day Ninevah is in fact Mosul in northern Iraq. As he said, “I wouldn’t want to go there, either.” Well, absolutely. David’s book Sympathy For Jonah (published by Resource Publications in 2016) elaborates much further on this.
The questions of who we make art for, and how unhelpful or otherwise the phrase ‘Christian art’ might be, did come up again – because they seem to have no cut-and-dried answers, and it’s always interesting to hear what new insights may be fed into the discussion. There was a feeling among us all that there’s more of a blurring than ever between the spiritual and secular ‘divide’, and that people outside the church are often very willing to consider and appreciate art that may be deemed ‘religious’ or is clearly inspired by faith.
Those of us at the Hub this time were very glad we were able to be there. I certainly felt encouraged and energised, and appreciated David making the journey to be with us all.
Harri is an actor, writer and producer who runs LifeBox Theatre, as well as the StageWrite Festival for new theatrical writing.