Familiar landmarks used as challenging drawings bring Gospel story up to date

JESUS and Mary have travelled 2,000 miles from the Middle East to West Yorkshire for an Easter story set in a cafe, a football ground, a popular park and on a double-deck bus.

Illustrator Si Smith has used familiar landmarks in his home city of Leeds to give the story of the resurrection a distinctly Yorkshire slant.

Locations around Leeds feature in the drawings. The empty tomb is represented by the door of a funeral home in Moortown, with other venues such as Caffe Nero in Albion Row and the lakeside in Roundhay Park appearing in key scenes.

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Jesus appears to the disciples in Caffe Nero and the angel appears to women aboard a double decker. At the park Jesus is preparing an outdoor breakfast.

There is also a scene beneath a flyover at York Road, one of Jesus turning up at Farsley Celtic's football ground and another at Otley Chevin.

Nineteen illustrations have been created to depict the story of the resurrection as if it was happening in Britain today.

Mr Smith, 43, a widely acclaimed illustrator who lives in Gledhow, Leeds, has created the images which are published in the Church Pastoral Aid Society Church Leadership magazine and on the website www.church-leadership.org

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He said: "I like the idea that the resurrection story includes real people, with real decisions to make. I think that setting the story in the here and now, in the place where I live, immediately makes the narrative and the characters less remote and more accessible. It earths the story somewhere very solid and tangible.

"I've illustrated a lot of biblical narratives in the past, almost all in a very traditional fashion – lots of pictures of men in biblical garb stood in front of what I've imagined Middle Eastern buildings looked like 2,000 years ago.

"However, I think that there's something provocative about setting the story in 2010. I think that good art challenges, questions and unsettles you. So I'm hoping that these drawings will invite folk to re-examine their understanding of the story."

Mr Smith said the drawings had been well received by friends and even his harshest critics – his two children, aged nine and 12.

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The Rev Sue Sheriff, vicar at St Mary's in Tadcaster, is displaying the images during Holy Week and the week after Easter. Each day, one image and a brief explanation of what is being depicted will be displayed in a vacant shop premises in the centre of Tadcaster, mounted on 50cm by 75cm canvasses.

She said: "The local geography used by Si Smith adds another dimension and means that these images are connected to the local community, especially as many people commute from here into Leeds. Hopefully younger people will relate to the images as well."