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Saturday, 28 May 2016

Poetry evening: Steven O'Brien, Edward Lucie-Smith & Joe Machine

Steven O'Brien began the poetry evening at St Stephen Walbrook, which was organised by The London Magazine during Joe Machine's exhibition 'The Life & Legend of St Stephen'. O'Brien read from his two collections, Dark Hill Dreams and Scrying Stone.

He views public readings as crucial in the process of writing as living work saying "it is an imperative of Creative Writing that it emerges (from its roots in English Literature) with a distinct conceptual style and flavour, in which literary writing can encompass both the creatively critical and the critically creative."

O'Brien has said that, as Editor of The London Magazine, he looks for:

"Poetry that acknowledges the tropes of the past but offers something fresh in shape, structure and theme. Poetry that shows rather than tells. Poetry that is wholly alive to the possibilities of sensory language, cadences and vivacity of impact."

He encourages poets to: "Read widely and deeply. Serve your poetic apprenticeship, but do not be slavish. Write, write and write. Craft and redraft. Try always to be daring, and specific."

Edward Lucie-Smith read his powerfully intense series of poems about the Srebrenica massacre which took place in Bosnia in 1995 including:

Buried, reburied, unburied,
Stacked up,
Two thousand
Of the nameless,
Waiting for their stolen
Names to be returned to them.

(Edward Lucie-Smith, 6. Bodies at Tuzla)

Joe Machine read poetry and prose included in the monograph on his work. In the book Edward Lucie-Smith writes that:

"Joe had an extremely turbulent childhood and youth, marked by many episodes of theft and violence, which continued into his young adulthood. These overlapped with the beginnings of his life as a creative artist and a creative writer.

His first association with other creative spirits was with the poetry group the Medway Poets, who gave regular recitals at venues in the various Medway towns. This group was essentially disenfranchised, and divorced from the sophistication of middle-class literary circles in London. Though Joe Machine did not come into contact with the group until the late 1993, the impulse that led to its formation was rooted in a much earlier epoch. Essentially it could trace its ancestry to the rise of punk rock in the Britain of the mid-1970s."


Edward Lucie-Smith - Srebrenica.

Windows on the world (394)

Brighton, 2015


Coulson, Dean, McGuinness, Flint - Lay Down Your Weary Tune.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Ben Uri: 100 for 100

Founded 100 years ago in London's East End Jewish quarter, Ben Uri is now located in a small gallery in Boundary Road, NW8 and houses a 1300-piece collection largely hidden from view. Ben Uri is ending its centenary year with a larger and extended version of Out of Chaos held at Christie’s South Kensington.

100 for 100 provides a rare opportunity to enjoy spectacular works from the Ben Uri collection at Christie's South Kensington saleroom by showcasing works usually hidden from view, including David Bomberg, Jacob Epstein, Mark Gertler, Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach, alongside their international contemporaries including Marc Chagall, Chaïm Soutine and Georg Grosz.

The exhibition also includes lesser-known but no less historically important artists, whose stories help trace complex narratives of war, forced journeys, migration and loss. The final room features contemporary artists from refugee and migrant backgrounds, accompanied by newly-uncovered archival material illustrating Ben Uri’s colourful history and wide cultural programming as well as the far-reaching impact of émigré artists on 20th century British art and design. These spectacular highlights secure Ben Uri’s future as a museum of identity and migration.

Exhibition open 21 May – 9 June
Closed 28th, 29th, 30th May.

Held at:
Christie’s South Kensington
85 Old Brompton Road


Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy - Symphony No.2 "Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise)".

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Discover & explore: The Venerable Bede

Here are the reflection and prayers from Monday's Discover & explore service at St Stephen Walbrook exploring the life and thought of The Venerable Bede:

‘History repeats itself.
Has to.
No-one listens.’

Thus says Steve Turner's short poem entitled ‘History Lesson’. Unlike the attitude satirised in the poem, the Venerable Bede was someone who wished to listen to and learn from the lessons of history.

Bede was born in Northumbria around the year 670. When he was seven years old, his family gave him to the monastery of St Peter and St Paul at Wearmouth. He then moved to Jarrow, where he lived as a monk for the rest of his life. Although it seems he never travelled further than York, his monastery - first under Abbot Benet Biscop and then Abbot Ceolfrith - was a centre of learning, and Bede studied extensively. He used all the resources available to write the most complete history of Christian England up to the year 729, as well as commentaries on books of the Bible.

He spent his whole life writing being the author of 45 volumes including text-books and translations, hymns and other verse, letters and homilies. He was one of the very earliest Anglo-Saxon poets and recorded "Caedmon's Hymn," the oldest complete poem in the English language. He wrote major scientific works and helped establish the foundations of medieval astronomy and chronology. He was primarily responsible for popularizing the western BC and AD dating system, as well as writing a treatise on grammar and figures of speech. He wrote all of his own work, saying of himself, "I am my own secretary; I dictate, I compose, I copy all myself." He asked for no assistance with his work until his last illness at the age of 62 when he was unable to write and engaged the help of a young scribe called Wilbert. He was renowned for his monastic fidelity and his love of teaching, and was fondly remembered by his pupils, including his biographer. He died peacefully in 735.

With the exception of foreign travel, much of our reading from Ecclesiasticus (39. 1 - 10) applies to and sums up Bede: devotion to study, seeking out the wisdom of the ancients, preserving sayings of the famous, seeking the Lord, petitioning the Most High and, as a result, being filled with the spirit of understanding and pouring forth words of wisdom of his own.

Bede was declared Venerable by the church in 836 and was canonised in 1899. He was named "Doctor of the Church" by Pope Leo XIII, because of his work and piety, and is the Patron Saint of scholars and historians. As a careful historian, Doctor of the Church, a lover of God and of the truth, he is a natural model for all readers of God's inspired Word. We heard in the Preface to his Ecclesiastical History of the English People how he valued those who diligently give ear to hear the words of Holy Scripture. He provides an example of one who prepared for public reading by prayerfully pondering the sacred texts and invoking the Holy Spirit in order to read in such a way that those who hear may attain learning and edification.

He also tells us why we should listen to the voices of history by industriously taking care to become acquainted with the actions and sayings of former people of renown, especially of our own nation. Where history relates good things of good people, we can excitedly imitate that which is good; and, where it recounts evil things of wicked people, we can both be warned so that we shun what is hurtful and wrong, and, by contrast, feel compelled to counteract evil by more earnestly performing those things which we know to be good, and worthy of the service of God.

At no time in our lives is this kind of reflection more important than as we approach death. St Cuthbert, Bede’s most famous disciple, described Bede's death as follows: "Being well-versed in our native songs, he described to us the dread departure of the soul from the body by a verse in our own tongue, which translated means: 'Before setting forth on that inevitable journey, none is wiser than the man who considers—before his soul departs hence—what good or evil he has done, and what judgement his soul will receive after its passing." Our present life is fleeting in comparison to eternity, so, when facing Death, that inescapable journey, who can be wiser than he who reflects, while breath yet remains, on whether his life brought others happiness or pains, since his soul may yet win delight's or night's way after his death-day.

Bede exemplified this attitude to the end of his days. On Tuesday 24th May 735, he took grievously ill but continued to teach, cheerfully suggesting to his pupils that they learn quickly as he may not be with them long. The next day he taught until nine in the morning. He then dictated part of his book to Wilbert. That evening Wilbert said to Bede " Dear master, there is still one sentence that we have not written down." Bede said "Quick, write it down." Wilbert then said "There; now it is written down." Bede replied "Good. You have spoken the truth; it is finished. Hold my head in your hands, for I really enjoy sitting opposite the holy place where I used to pray; I can call upon my Father as I sit there." And Bede then as he lay upon the floor of his cell sang the Gloria and as he named the Holy Spirit he breathed his last breath. His only possessions - some handkerchiefs, a few peppercorns and a small quantity of incense were shared amongst his brother monks as he had wished.


Merciful God, who gave such grace to your servant Bede that he served you with singleness of heart and loved you above all things: help us, to forsake all that holds us back from following Christ and to grow into his likeness from glory to glory. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

I pray thee, loving Jesus, that as Thou hast graciously given me to drink in with delight the words of Thy knowledge, so Thou wouldst mercifully grant me to attain one day to Thee, the fountain of all wisdom, and to appear forever before Thy face. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

O Christ, our Morning Star, Splendour of Light Eternal, shining with the glory of the rainbow, come and waken us from the greyness of our apathy, and renew in us your gift of hope. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.


God our Maker, whose Son Jesus Christ gave to your servant Bede grace to drink in with joy the Word that leads us to know you and to love you: in your goodness grant that we also may come at length to you, the source of all wisdom, and stand before your face; and may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

The next Discover & explore service at St Stephen Walbrook will be on Monday 6th June at 1.10pm and will explore the life and thought of St Columba with Revd Sally Muggeridge and the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields.


Will Todd - Christus Est Stella.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

This week at St Stephen Walbrook

This week at St Stephen Walbrook, we continue to show the latest exhibition of paintings by Joe Machine, 'The Life & Legend of St Stephen'. The exhibition can be viewed weekdays 10.00am - 4.00pm (except Wednesday, 11.00am - 3.00pm).

Joe Machine's paintings combine Jewish and Christian iconography in a unique interpretation of the story of the first Christian martyr, who is our Patron Saint. Mysticism, humour, symbolism, narrative and stylized patterning are fused to form these ravishing and reflective icons.

Tomorrow's Discover & explore service at 1.10pm with the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields will explore the life and thought of The Venerable Bede through liturgy, music, prayers, readings and a reflection.

On Wednesday we have a poetry evening arranged by The London Magazine and featuring Steven O’Brien, Joe Machine and Edward Lucie-Smith beginning at 7.00pm. Joe Machine and Steven O'Brien have collaborated on a soon to be published book, Britannia Stories, exploring twenty myths commonly associated with the British Isles. They worked closely in examining the origins of all the stories, and on determining the relevance of each to the 21st century, with Machine’s paintings influencing O’Brien’s writings, and vice versa.


The BRMHS Festival Singers - Prayer Of The Venerable Bede.

The Divine Image: For mercy has a human heart

During Refugee Week 2016, British artist Hannah Rose Thomas will be exhibiting her portrait paintings of refugees she has met in Jordan and the Calais ‘Jungle’ in the Crypt Gallery at St Pancras Church. Also to be displayed are the art projects Hannah organised with refugee children living in the refugee camps in Jordan and Calais.

Hannah studied Arabic in Jordan for a year and worked with Syrian refugees in the camps there for UNHCR. Her paintings are living stories. Hannah's main patron is the Rev Canon Andrew White who has been discipling, supporting and nursing her talent.

The Haven+London has been giving Hannah support for her work and encouraging her to show the heart of God for the refugees through her art .

The Divine Image: For mercy has a human heart
June 21-12:00 am - July 25-5:00 pm
Hannah Rose Thomas
Open daily: 12pm – 5pm, and until 8pm on Tuesday 21
Private View: Monday 6-9pm
To mark World Refugee Day


The Worldwide Tribe - Music Without Borders.

Inspired to Follow: The Martyrdom of St Stephen

Here is my reflection from today's "Inspired to Follow: Art and the Bible Story" at St Martin-in-the-Fields, using ‘The Martyrdom of St Stephen’, possibly by Antonio Carracci, c.1610 (Location: National Gallery: not on display, see

Saint Stephen was the first Christian martyr, and was stoned to death. Saul (the future Saint Paul) guards the clothes of those who stone Saint Stephen outside the city. In the Acts of the Apostles, Stephen is described as one of the seven deacons whose job it is to care for the widows in the early Church in Jerusalem. His eloquent speech before the Sanhedrin, in which he shows the great sweep of Jewish history as leading to the birth of Jesus, the long-expected Messiah, and his impassioned plea that all might hear the good news of Jesus, leads to his inevitable martyrdom by being stoned to death. As the author of Acts, Luke's description of Stephen bears direct parallels to that of Christ: for example, the passion; being filled with the Holy Spirit; seeing the Son of God as the right hand of God, as Jesus promised he would be; commending his spirit to Jesus, as Jesus commended his to the Father; kneeling as Jesus did in Gethsemane and asking forgiveness for his persecutors. Witnessing to Jesus by acting like Jesus in every way is thus seen by Luke as of the essence of the Christian life.

If this painting is definitely by Antonio Carracci, a date of about 1610 would seem likely. Carracci was born in Venice. His father Agostino Carracci was an artist. His godfather was Tintoretto. He began his art studies early and proved an apt scholar. He was taught first by his father, then his uncle Annibale, and he also assisted Guido Reni. So, he was part of a well-connected family of artists and this shows itself in his work; both in the fluency of his technique (which was much admired among his contemporaries) and in his maintenance of the Carracci style. He developed a deep affection for his uncle Annibale, with whom he went to Rome, where most of his work was done. In 1609, when his uncle and teacher, Annibale, died, he showed his devotion by burying him with great solemnity near the tomb of Raphael. In Rome, Cardinal Tonti employed the talented youth to decorate his chapel, and on its completion he was commissioned to paint the chapel of St. Charles Borromeo, and a fresco in one of the rooms of the pope's palace at Monte Cavallo. Unlike the martyr he depicts, his was an uneventful career (yet one in which through his art he was a witness to Christ).

The Greek word "martus" signifies a "witness". It is in this sense that the term first appears in Christian literature; the Apostles were "witnesses" of all that they had observed in the public life of Christ. The Apostles, from the beginning as the story of St Stephen makes clear, faced grave dangers, until eventually almost all suffered death for their convictions. Thus, within the lifetime of the Apostles, the term martus came to be used in the sense of a witness who at any time might be called upon to deny what he testified to, under penalty of death. From this stage the transition was easy to the ordinary meaning of the term, as used ever since in Christian literature: a martyr, or witness of Christ, as a person who suffers death rather than deny his faith.

There continue to be Christians who experience persecution or martyrdom today and we must pray for and support our brothers and sisters in the persecuted Church. It is, probably, unlikely that we will share with St Stephen in this experience, even so, we can still share with St Stephen in the other meaning of martus; that of being a witness who gives testimony. The missiologist Lesslie Newbigin has explained that testimony is what is given by a witness in a trial. A witness makes his or her statement as part of a trial in which the truth is at stake and where the question, ‘What is the truth?’ is what is being argued. Newbigin has argued that this is what is “at the heart of the biblical vision of the human situation that the believer is a witness who gives his testimony in a trial.”

Where is the trial? It is all around us, it is life itself? In all situations we encounter, there is challenge to our faith and there is a need for us to testify in words and actions to our belief in Christ. Whenever people act as though human beings are entirely self-relient, there is a challenge to our faith. Whenever people argue that suffering and disasters mean that there cannot be a good God, we are on the witness stand. Whenever people claim that scientific advances or psychological insights can explain away belief in God, we are in the courtroom. Whenever a response of love is called for, our witness is at stake.

What is the content of our testimony? Witnesses are those who have seen or experienced a particular event or sign or happening and who then tell the story of what they have seen or heard as testimony to others. That is what Jesus called us to do before he ascended to the Father; to tell our stories of encountering him to others. So, we don’t have to understand or be able to explain the key doctrines of the Christian faith. We don’t have to be able to tell people the two ways to live or to have memorized the sinner’s prayer or to have tracts to be able to hand out in order to be witnesses to Jesus. All we need to do is to tell our story; to say this is how Jesus made himself real to me and this is the difference that it has made.

Witness for Jesus, man of fruitful blood,
Your martyrdom begins and stands for all.
They saw the stones, you saw the face of God,
And sowed a seed that blossomed in St. Paul.
When Saul departed breathing threats and slaughter
He had to pass through that Damascus gate
Where he had held the coats and heard the laughter
As Christ, alive in you, forgave his hate,
And showed him the same light you saw from heaven
And taught him, through his blindness, how to see;
Christ did not ask ‘Why were you stoning Stephen?’
But ‘Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
Each martyr after you adds to his story,
As clouds of witness shine through clouds of glory. (Malcolm Guite)


Gracious Father,
who gave the first martyr Stephen
grace to pray for those who took up stones against him:
grant that in all our sufferings for the truth
we may learn to love even our enemies
and to seek forgiveness for those who desire our hurt,
looking up to heaven to him who was crucified for us,
Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Advocate,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Pēteris Vasks - O Lord Open Our Eyes.