The donkey that wouldnt cross the road even for an Easter procession

first_img“Our other donkey, Larry, is unphased by anything. He’s doing three parades this year,” said Hackney City Farm’s manager Chris Pounds. “But Clover won’t have it.“She won’t cross the road or walk anywhere where there are drain covers, holes or puddles. She thinks she’ll fall down them, so she stops dead and has to be coaxed round them. That’s impracticable when it comes to a church procession through the streets.”An increasing number of Church of England churches are reviving the Catholic tradition of Easter processions in an effort to get more children involved in coming to church.But with only a limited number of donkeys available in London it is getting harder to churches to find one to take part.And Clover’s understandable fear of the capital’s roads isn’t helping.”It’s a busy time for donkeys,” said Mr Pounds, 50. “We are getting more calls – they ring as if no-one has ever thought of it before and we have to say that we’re already doing four events.”Ths Palm Sunday Larry will firstly head to St Martin’s in the Fields for an early procession. Then he will lead another one from St James’s in Piccadilly before being taken by lorry to Edgware, and then down to Camden for two more. Larry with Hackney City Farm manager Chris Pounds Larry with Hackney City Farm manager Chris PoundsCredit:Eddie Mulholland/The Telegraph Clover (L) and her companion Larry (R) at Hackney City Farm, east London Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.center_img Clover (L) and her companion Larry (R) at Hackney City Farm, east LondonCredit:Eddie Mulholland/The Telegraph Most days Clover is a pretty amenable sort of donkey. She’ll let children pat and stroke her and if she’s in a good mood she will even pull them round a field in a cart.But she draws the line at crossing the road.Clover, one of two donkeys at Hackney City Farm, in east London, has a phobia of puddles, drain covers and anything in the road which, to her eyes at least, looks like she might tumble into.That means she has had to turn down the chance of a starring role in her local church’s Easter parade.Which is a shame, because it means St Peter’s Church, in nearby Bethnal Green, has had to look elsewhere for a donkey for next week’s Palm Sunday procession. The £200 fee Larry earns for each parade goes towards the cost of maintaining Hackney City Farm, visited by over 100,000 people a year.“Larry is quite happy to take part. He’ll go anywhere, especially as people tend to give him carrots and apples along the route,” said Mr Pounds.The donkey is central to the Christian tradition, as it was the humble creature on which Jesus returned in triumph to Jerusalem as crowds laid palm fronds in front of him. Days later he was crucified.“Having a donkey on the parade adds a realism to the event and gets people to focus on what it’s about and the reasons behind the procession,” said Mr Pounds, “It adds another dimension to have a donkey followed by a choir and congregation. Sometimes it’s up to 100 people and people stop and watch it pass.”The new vicar of St Mary’s in Bethnal Green, the Reverend Adam Atkinson, revived its Easter procession tradition in 2010 after it had all but died out.The absence of a donkey will not frustrate this year’s parade as the church was eventually able to acquire a donkey from Spitalfields City Farm.Mr Atkinson said: “It’s been harder to get one – now you have to ask a year in advance and pay a fee, which definitely tells a story about how it has changed – we used to just pop over to the farm and borrow it for free.The procession will see the congregation of St Peter’s parade on a circular route around nearby Columbia Road flower market before returning to the church.“It’s grown every year – we started off with around 30 people and last year we had about 130 people.”The donkey is such a draw for the children, and if it’s from the local farm they know it by name which is very sweet,” said Mr Atkinson.He added that it often leads to new members becoming involved in his church, with families joining in the procession for the first time.Alana Harris, a religious history expert and lecturer in modern history at King’s College London, said that the influence of Christians from other cultures appears to have led to a resurgence of the tradition.She said inner-city churches might also have been influenced by practices from other religions, such as the Hindu chariot processions in west London.”There’s something of the performance in some of these traditions which have been revived. They’re things which might have died out in the UK during the 19th century, but not in other places.”You can see the influence of Filipino and Nigerian communities in some of these more exuberant and confident practices,” she said.But they will have to do without Clover. She will be spending her Palm Sunday happily munching grass in her paddock, safe from any dangerous looking potholes.last_img

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