Banksy and Boyle: A New Take on the Nativity

By Joe Sperrin

Danny Boyle and Banksy,  The Alternativity , 2017, BBC 2 17/12/17, Courtesy of

Danny Boyle and Banksy, The Alternativity, 2017, BBC 2 17/12/17, Courtesy of

It is hard to imagine Christmas without some sort of image of the nativity, whether it haunts you with memories from your childhood on stage as mouse number 3 (yes, that was my part) or reminds you of the true meaning of Christmas, it surely wont’t match Danny Boyle and Banksy’s take on the story coming to our TVs on Sunday 17th December.

The infamous street artist Banksy has teamed up with the infamous film director Danny Boyle for what is sure to be one of the most memorable Christmas TV viewings.  “The Alternativity”, as it is called, will take a new spin on the classic school nativity play and will inject some of the political issues that are relevant to today, almost as if the story of the nativity were based in Palestine as we know it now. Banksy has not been one to shy away from some of the political controversy surrounding the issue of Palestine, recently opening his Bethlehem hotel fittingly named “The Walled off Hotel” with a spectacular view of the Israeli West Bank Barrier wall. Further acts of rebellion against President Trump's recent actions regarding the region include the “royal apology” and an invitation granted to 50 Palestinian children to a tea party on the centenary of the ever-controversial 1917 Balfour Declaration (the British action taken in the region following the Second World War).

Banksy,  The Walled off Hotel,  2017, Image: Ammar Awad, Courtesy of    

Banksy, The Walled off Hotel, 2017, Image: Ammar Awad, Courtesy of

Danny Boyle is one of the film-world’s most established directors with films such as “Slumdog Millionaire” and “127 Hours” storming the box-offices. Other shows directed by Boyle include the world-famous and world-respected opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic games. The question still remains, nonetheless, whether or not this take on the Nativity will take a darker turn as we saw with other famous films by Boyle such as “Trainspotting”, a haunting tale of heroine addiction in Edinburgh. Films like these make it seemingly suitable for this artist and this director to work on this piece together.

Danny Boyle,  Trainspotting,  1996, Image: Film4 Productions, Courtesy of

Danny Boyle, Trainspotting, 1996, Image: Film4 Productions, Courtesy of

This documentary about the production of a darker nativity play is set to be a reality-check as we hastily approach the Christmas season. The setting for the play is the walled carpark of the Bethlehem hotel, a bleak setting reflecting the bleak prospect of Christmas in Palestine. As we celebrate Christmas at home with our families and friends, this documentary serves as a reminder to consider those less privileged than we are; and what better way to broadcast this message with the might of the BBC and creative talent of Danny Boyle and Banksy. In recent years, Banksy’s projects have seemed to highlight the immense religious and political tensions in the region. With the backlash and divided reaction towards Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s true capital, this documentary could not have come at a better time.

Whatever interpretation of the nativity story Boyle and Banksy have taken, it is obliged to serve as a reminder of the bleak reality that regions of the world like this face during the Christmas period.



Shaw, Anny, “Banksy and Danny Boyle create Alternativity in Bethlehem, despite never meeting”, The Art Newspaper. Accessed 13th Dec. 2017,

Al Jazeera News, “Trump’s Jerusalem move: All the latest updates”, Al Jazeera News. Accessed 13th Dec. 2017,

BBC News, “Danny Boyle and Banksy's 'Alternativity' to be on BBC Two”, BBC News. Accessed 13th Dec. 2017,

Graham-Harrison, Emma, “ ‘Worst view in the world’: Banksy opens hotel overlooking Bethlehem wall”, The Guardian. Accessed 13th Dec. 2017,

Heller, Jeffrey, “At West Bank tea party, artist Banksy offers royal ‘apology’ for Balfour Declaration”, Reuters. Accessed 13th Dec. 2017,