Baptist Minister's beach art creates intrigue
You’ve probably heard of the urban artist Banksy. But did you know that a Baptist Minister in Southend has become known as the local Sandbanksy?
In March 2014, a Baptist Minister began creating artwork on the beach in Westcliff, sparking speculation from passers by and the local press about who was responsible for the etchings in the sand, with someone coining the name ‘Sandbanksy’. On Good Friday a labyrinth emerged on the beach. Visitors walked its pathway while members of Avenue Baptist Church handed out hot cross buns and hot drinks.
“Whilst walking a labyrinth it seems the connection between ourselves and God becomes closer for a moment, as we choose to walk to a different path from the one we're used to,” explains Sandbanksy. “I just felt that if those moments are only ever confined to church halls or cathedrals or monasteries, then too many people might never experience them.”
The chosen location for the sand art meant that the labyrinth could easily be seen by walkers on the cliffs above. “It piqued people's interest as they walked by,” he says. “There are those who stepped down and gave the labyrinth a go, and the response was always amazing. When I talked to those who had just come out of the labyrinth, the overwhelming reaction was positive, and many talked of experiencing something spiritual having walked the path.”
This year, Sandbanksy returned. Over the Easter weekend he etched an image of the empty tomb on the beach. The local press covered the story naming him ‘Southend’s infamous Sandbanksy’.
And the Minister’s schedule for his much-talked-about sand art is beginning to fill up.
“I have a two or three more labyrinth dates planned here in Southend. One is for a local art exhibition in June. And I've been asked to provide a labyrinth for use as a memorial service for parents who have lost children. I can also do them spontaneously now and again, where only the passers by get to know about them. Of course, if people have access to a beach and are wishing to have their church experience something similar, I'm open to invites further afield!”
Sandbanksy’s creations have engaged the imagination of local people. They’ve opened up conversations about God and faith and brought a reflective, spiritual exercise much closer to people who may not ordinarily step inside a church.
“In Southend the beach is such an integral part of local people's way of life; it just made perfect sense to use the beach in this way,” says Sandbanksy. “It seemed to perfectly tap into the 'culture of a place', whereby an encounter with God could be naturally created, in a way that was perfectly accessible to people. For me, the labyrinth on Westcliff Beach offers local people a space to reflect, and to recognise that God is always with us, at every turn of our path.”
And if you’re wondering who ‘Sandbanksy’ is, try unravelling this anagram: ‘Drink Jive Limp’.