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Rock Steady

Tracey Emin’s marriage to a stone

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec) - Church Schools


To explore our understanding of stable relationships (SEAL theme: Self-awareness).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and four readers.

  • You will also need an image of Tracey Emin and the means to display it during the assembly. An image is available at:

  • Optional: you may also wish to use images of Damien Hirst and Sam Taylor-Johnson, in which case, you may wish to find out about their work prior to the assembly.


Show the image of Tracey Emin at the start of the assembly.

Leader: Tracey Emin is an artist, one of the group known as the Young British Artists, which also included Damien Hirst and Sam Taylor-Johnson.

(You may wish to show the images of these artists here.)

These Young British Artists were not particularly young in age, but belonged to a group who began to exhibit their work together in 1988 and became known for their unusual approach and attitudes.

Tracey works in a variety of media, including sculpture, film, drawing and painting as well as creating art installations such as her famous unmade bed.

Last year, Tracey Emin got married. ‘Congratulations!’ we all say, but there was something different about her wedding. Tracey got married to a stone! It’s a splendid stone. ‘Venerable’ is the word she uses to describe it, and it stands on a hill, facing the sea, in her garden in the south of France. Tracey didn’t do this as a joke. She married her stone to make a statement about the relationships she needs at this point in her life. She has described the stone as ‘an anchor, something I can identify with’ and also said, ‘It's not going anywhere. It will be there, waiting for me.’

Before we reject the concept as totally mad, let’s try to understand what she’s looking for. Her rock is a symbol for anything that might give stability, purpose and a sense of permanence to her life. It’s what makes her feel protected and not alone. These are natural feelings that I think we all identify with in one way or another.

The sad thing is that you’d expect her to be able to find these feelings in the relationships she has with other people. Marrying a stone rather than a person implies that her life is full of experiences of feeling alienated, of being let down, of looking for someone and finding they have deserted her. It even suggests that she hasn’t been able to find total stability and lasting satisfaction in her work. The stone is the only object she can trust. It never changes and it is always there when she returns home.

The problem is that the relationship isn’t going anywhere and can never develop. She and the stone will never grow closer. The stone will never return the trust that she has placed in it.

Time for reflection

Leader: What do you look for in your closest friendships?

Reader 1: I look for those who are reliable. I need to know they’re never too busy when I call them, and that they won’t let me down when I look for their support.

Reader 2: It’s important to me that they can keep confidences. If I’m going to open up to them about how I feel, I need to know it won’t end up on Twitter or Facebook.

Reader 3: I’d like close friends to be sympathetic, to be willing to see things from my point of view even if I’m in a minority. It may be necessary later on to tell me that I was wrong, but at first, I need their support.

Reader 4: Nevertheless, it’s important that close friends are honest with me. When I’m making a bit of a fool of myself, I want them to tell me. I want a friendship that’s strong enough to take disagreements.

Leader: So what happens when, as it is for Tracey Emin, it’s hard to find such a friend?

Christians use the image of a stone to describe what Jesus is like. They believe that Jesus is reliable, trustworthy and never changes. When Jesus was on Earth, he had some special friends called the disciples. One of these disciples was called Peter; he was Jesus’ right-hand man. When Peter wrote a letter to some friends, he described Jesus as a living stone (see 1 Peter 2.4-8). This is because Christians believe that Jesus is alive today. They believe that they can talk to him and that he can be close to them. They also believe that they can base their lives on the stability of his teaching.

How do you choose your friends?

When building a stone wall or house, a builder carefully chooses the right stones, particularly for the corners and the lintels above the windows and doors.

Friendships are essential to our lives – lets choose them carefully.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the joy that is found in good relationships.
Thank you for close, reliable friends.
Help us to be good friends to others.


‘You've got a friend’ by James Taylor

Publication date: October 2016   (Vol.18 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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