Once in a Preston Guild

If something happens very infrequently you may here it referred to as being ‘once in a blue moon’. In Lancashire, ‘appen tha’ll say ‘once in a Preston Guild’. The Preston Guild is celebrated enough to become part of the language but celebrated so infrequently to become a byword for rare events.

So what is the Preston Guild? And why is celebrated only once every twenty years?

The Preston Guild dates back to 1179 and is the only such ceremony still celebrated in the UK. In 1179, Henry II granted Preston the right to have a Guild Merchant. The Guild controlled the town’s craftsmen, the right to trade in the town and the town’s marketplace. Membership of the Guild was for life, and the membership rolls were updated infrequently.

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A Passion for Preston

On Good Friday in 2012, the story of the Passion of Christ was played out live on BBC One from the distinctly unlikely surroundings of Preston Bus Station. Preston’s Bus Station is an iconic piece of 1960s architecture and arouses strong feelings in the face of the City Council’s proposals to demolish it. But whatever the merits of this icon of brutalism, it is a world away from first century C.E. Jerusalem and the Hill of Calvary.

So why did the BBC commit an hour of live programming and months of preparation to stage the Preston Passion? One of the reasons was the success of last year’s Port Talbot Passion – a demonstration that the story of Jesus’s journey to the cross could have modern relevance and generate significant interest.

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