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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Sabbatical art pilgrimage: ACG e-info introduction

I have recently written the introductory piece for the latest e-info mailing sent out by the Arts Centre Group. In it I summarise briefly the main learning from my sabbatical art pilgrimage:

"Over the past three months spent on sabbatical I’ve been enjoying the opportunity to visit churches in Belgium, England, France and Switzerland to see works of modern and contemporary art.

The commissions that I have seen during this sabbatical tell a story of a continuing engagement by the Church with contemporary art from the Post-Impressionists to the present day. This engagement has often been contentious and contested but it has nevertheless been a continuing relationship involving both mainstream artists with a Christian faith and church commissions undertaken by mainstream artists who have not professed the faith.

This story is not one which has been well told, either by the Church or the mainstream art world. There are many reasons for this on both sides but my concern in making this story the focus of my sabbatical has been to encourage the Church to tell and to value this story.

As both a parish priest and through commission4mission, the group of artists of which I am part, I have seen the value of promoting and publicising the artworks which churches have commissioned. Through the creation of Art Trails locally and regionally, we have provided churches with a means of publicity which has led to events such as art competitions, exhibitions, festivals and talks, community art workshops, guided and sponsored walks, and Study Days. Each has brought new contacts to the churches involved and has built relationships between these churches and local artists/arts organisations.

It is my contention that to tell more fully the story of the engagement which the Church has had with modern and contemporary art could have similar impact on a wider scale and would also have the effect of providing emerging artists from within the Church and the faith with a greater range of role models and approaches for their own developing inspiration and practice.

The commissions I have seen speak powerfully and movingly of the Christian faith and therefore also inform the spirituality of those who see them. I am seeking to tell part of this story through posts about my sabbatical visits on my blog at, as well as in the Church of the Month series on the ArtWay website - My hope is that others will find these commissions and the continuing story of church commissions as inspirational as I have done."


David Grant - Change.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Mission Weekend: Crazy Science Praise Party


Dougie Dug Dug's Crazy Science Praise Party has gone down an absolute storm this afternoon at St John's Seven Kings. It was full of action songs, puppets, funky dance tracks and some really fun and jaw-dropping visual experiments which made the kids gasp in astonishment. The idea was to help people appreciate our amazing God through the incredible world He’s made. With lots of audience participation and a hefty measure of fun and laughter thrown in, it made for a colourful and exciting celebration that the kids (and the grown ups too) will be talking about for a long time.


Duggie Dug Dug - Crazy Science Praise Party.

Windows on the world (302)

Calais, 2013


Romanian Orthodox Chant - We Magnify Thee.   

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Sophia Hub update

Ros Southern writes:

"We have made an appearance on Radio Ramadan this week and are grateful to Minhaj Mosque for this opportunity.  Click here for info.

The enterprise club this coming Tuesday lunch time is on business plans led by Ola Asgill and will be a longer session.   12.15- 2 with 45 minute presentation and 45 minutes plus to work on your business plans with support from Ola and others.  Read more here.

Thanks to Nnenna Anyanwu for leading a very helpful session last Tuesday that took a deeper, reflective look at who you are and a bit of a skills audit.  Read more here.

Manzoor Ahmed, speaker on 15th July is running a pop-up restaurant on Thursday 31st July.  I am going.  More info here.

Very pleased to have recruited our 4th volunteer today - Lynette St Cyr Caeser.   Lynette will be working as a Timebank broker as part of a team. Delighted to have you on board Lynette.  We need people to keep registering and to start trading - please do give it a try.  Click here.  For more general information on the Timebank click here.  To find out about volunteer opportunties click here.

The enterprise club will  not be running on Tuesday lunchtimes during August but we will be holdiing evening sessions on 5th and 11th."


Beth Rowley - Beautiful Tomorrow.

Mission Weekend: Seven Kings Got Talent

UFC Band

Our judges - Keith, Irene and Dennis

Amrita Singravelou

Spirit & Life Church

Guiseppe Palumbo

Jade Springer

Palmer Stone Stage School

Danny & Joel Molyneux

Spirit & Life Church

The Winners

Part 1 of our Mission Weekend at St John's Seven Kings was full of flair and creativity as we hosted Seven Kings Got Talent. With over 30 performers there was plenty of variety in what was a packed show. We enjoyed soloists, duos and groups performing songs, instrumentals (guitar, tin whistle and piano), magic and dance (tap and Indian). In between the competition sections, the United for Christ Band performed worship songs. Our judges - Keith, Irene and Dennis - had a difficult task which they performed with great aplomb. The evening was compered by Dr. Winston Solomon.

Tomorrow we look forward to Part 2 of our Mission Weekend with a Dougie Dug Dug Crazy Science Praise Party for all the family at 4.00pm.


Dougie Dug Dug - I'm Gonna Jump Up And Down (Be Happy).

Sabbatical art pilgrimage: Chichester Cathedral

‘… it has been the great enthusiasm of my life and work to commission for the Church the very best artists I could, in painting, in sculpture, in music and in literature.’

This was the concluding sentence of the rationale that Canon Walter Hussey, Dean of Chichester Cathedral, provided for Marc Chagall as a brief for his stained glass window at the Cathedral based on Psalm 150. This window was the conclusion to the remarkable series of commissions by Hussey; firstly at St Matthews Northampton and then at Chichester Cathedral.

Bishop George Bell strongly supported the appointment of Walter Hussey as Dean of Chichester Cathedral to take forward the commissioning programme he had initiated there as part of his wider programme to reinvigorate the Church’s patronage of the Arts. Other Anglican clergy such as Vincent McKenna, Moelwyn Merchant and Bernard Walke played their part in this work of reinvigoration but it is Hussey’s commissions of William Albright, W.H. Auden, Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, Chagall, Cecil Collins, Gerald Finzi, Henry Moore, Norman Nicholson, John Piper, Ceri Richards, John Skelton, Graham Sutherland, Michael Tippett and William Walton which stand out, in the fields of literature, music and the visual arts, as truly significant in their own right and for the reinvigoration of the Church’s patronage of the Arts. For his commissions at St Matthews and Chichester Cathedral, Kenneth Clark memorably described him as 'the last great patron of art in the Church of England.'

Peter Webster notes that while ‘the period from the mid-1960s onwards’ in fact saw an ‘upsurge in commissioning activity’ and that, ‘emboldened by the examples of Chichester, and Coventry Cathedral, authorities in cathedrals and in newly built parish churches began to commission new works of art for those buildings,’ ‘it was also the case that the high-water mark of the Church’s engagement with the leaders in British art had in fact already been reached:’

‘Never again in the twentieth century was the Church to achieve the same contact with artists of the stature of Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland, and indeed Hussey’s commissions as he neared retirement were of his own generation or older. The art world became more and more fragmented, with a bewildering variety of styles, each developing according to its own particular internal logic. The church continued to commission contemporary art, but now of certain styles amongst the many. Generally, commissions were confined to figurative art, since the task of interpreting abstract work in a Christian way presented considerable challenges. It had been the vision of men like Bell and Hussey that the church should position itself in the mainstream of the nation’s life, including its art. There had now ceased to be a clearly visible mainstream in which the church could position itself.’

This more difficult terrain to negotiate is, perhaps, indicated by the repeated refusal of permission from the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England (CFCE) for the application made by the Chapter of Chichester Cathedral to commission Jaume Plensa's Together for installation in the Cathedral as the Hussey Memorial Commission. The grounds for rejection in this case are to do with the perception of significant change in the character of the space above the Arundel Bell Screen as a result of the installation.

New commissions in settings where there is existing artwork/architecture have to take into account issues of harmonisation or dissonance i.e. to what extent will the new commission be integrated with whatever is already there or by being dissonant raise questions about what is already there. Artworks integrated within the life and architecture of a church are not viewed in the same way as works within the white cube of a gallery space and this needs to be understood and handled with sensitivity during the commissioning process. The result can be a sense of overall integrity and harmony within a space which holds great variety and diversity and where this occurs the whole and its constituent parts image something of the Trinitarian belief – the one and the many - which is at the very heart of Christianity.

In my view the commissioning process at Chichester and the artist himself have fully taken these issues into account in their proposal and the CFCE’s decision is deeply disappointing for all involved with this commission. The impasse demonstrates that commissions for churches continue to have significant potential for controversy. Having visited on my sabbatical art pilgrimage several churches associated with commissions perceived to be controversial at the time of their installation, such as Albert Servaes’ Stations of the Cross, Henry Moore’s Madonna and Child and Germaine Richier’s Crucifix, it seems to me that controversies of modern art, whether the reception of the works themselves or that of their challenging content, are, with time, resolved as congregations live with the works and learn to value the challenge of what initially seemed to be scandalous.

Certainly, the mix of commissions here - from the ‘riot of colour and symbol’ in the Piper tapestry to the glow of Hans Feibusch’s tender Baptism or from the harmonious whole that is the Icon of Divine Light by Cecil Collins to the fractured energies of Ursula Benker-Schirmer’s tapestry for the Shrine of St Richard – genuinely ‘invigorate and beautify the cathedral’ while introducing variety and intrigue into the experience of visiting and worshipping here. Tourists are encouraged to do both during their visit by prayers on the hour and use of the leaflet ‘A Spiritual Tour of Chichester Cathedral’ which has been designed to help people pray as they walk around the Cathedral.

Hussey believed that ‘True artists of all sorts, as creators of some of the most worthwhile of man’s work, are well adapted to express man’s worship of God.’ When this is done consciously, he suggested, ‘the beauty and strength of their work can draw others to share to some extent their vision.’ This thought underpinned his brief to Chagall for the window based on Psalm 150 and titled The Arts to the Glory of God which takes as its theme ‘O praise God in his holiness … Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.’

Charles Marq, Chagall’s collaborator on his windows, wrote: ‘The triumphal quality of this chant is expressed by the dominance in the composition of the colour red (red on white, on green, on yellow), broken by a certain number of green, blue and yellow blobs. This is the first time that Marc Chagall has conceived a subject composed entirely of small figures; it is the people in festive mood glorifying the Lord, exalting his greatness and his creation.’ The work, he suggests, communicates a ‘message of glory and praise.’ (Chagall Glass at Chichester and Tudeley, Ed. By Paul Foster, Otter Memorial Paper No. 14)

Hussey, who had shown an interest in the arts, music, drama, painting and sculpture from his school and university years and who in his entry in Who's Who gave his sole recreation as ‘enjoying the arts,’  ‘acquired animportant and varied collection of his own’ which, on retirement, he offered to leave ‘to the city which he had done so much to promote as a centre of the arts:’

‘Like many others he was concerned about the neglect into which Pallant House, a fine example of eighteenth-century domestic architecture, had fallen and, as Dr KME Murray wrote 'his generous offer...was made deliberately as a means of securing the restoration of the house and its opening to the public'. In 1982 Hussey was present at the official opening of the house and saw his paintings and other works of art displayed in the same informal domestic setting as they had been at the deanery where he had taken so much pleasure in showing them to friends and strangers alike.’

Pallant House, which has been described as ‘a jewel of a gallery’ and as ‘one of the most important galleries for British modern art in the country,’ is now home to a Collection of British Modern art frequently described as one of the best in the UK. with important works by Gino Severini , Ivon Hitchens, Henry Moore, John Piper, Graham Sutherland, Patrick Caulfield, Michael Andrews, Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton.

Bell and Hussey also supported the development of a nationally significant collection of mid-20th century British art by the Otter Gallery which forms an integral and vital part of the University of Chichester. This gallery is home to an extensive collection of art that includes works across all disciplines. It offers a welcoming and accessible space for art to both its immediate community of staff and students and diverse audiences beyond. Core to the gallery's mission is its original intention to place art at the heart of people's lives. By 2020 the Gallery intends to be a stimulus for research and learning, exploring new perspectives and insights through practice, display interpretation and engagement.

The collection was started in 1947 when Eleanor Hipwell, head of art for the Bishop Otter College, acquired three paintings from an exhibition held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in order to display them in the University. Shortly afterwards, Miss K E Murray was appointed as a new Principal. Along with Eleanor Hipwell's successor, Sheila McCririck, Miss Murray pursued a determination to develop a collection of contemporary art that would inspire and inform the students of the University. The acquisition of quality work with inadequate monetary resources was a demonstration of Miss Murray's persuasive persistence. The support of Bell, who was Chairman of the Bishop Otter College Council, and Hussey was vital in helping to promote acceptance of an acquisitions policy that included controversial and challenging pieces such as Patrick Heron's Black and White.

I visited while a selection of the permanent collection was on display. Connected Collections enables visitors to explore and contemplate the various aesthetic, historical, stylistic and social juxtapositions between diverse yet inter-linked artworks and their makers, inviting further connections and new discoveries of their own. Among the ceramics on display, comparisons can be made between makers such as Alison Britton, Michael Cardew, Ewen Henderson, Bernard Leach, Eric James Mellon and Lucie Rie, while oil paintings, watercolours and prints by artists including Elizabeth Blackadder, Sandra Blow, Mary Fedden, Terry Frost, Graham Sutherland and Alfred Wallis serve to highlight just some of the connecting themes between two and three dimensional works.

On visiting I was surprised to discover that the collection also includes Jean Lurçat’s altarpiece tapestry The Creation in the College’s Chapel and Geoffrey Clarke’s aluminium sculpture of The Crucifixion above the Chapel’s entrance. Lurçat’s altarpiece here is a vast improvement on that at Notre-Dame de Toute Grâce du Plateau d'Assy which is entirely lacking in the menace required for a tapestry focused on apocalyptic imagery. This tapestry has been temporarily replaced by screenprint produced by students and inspired by the tapestry. In this work the accent is on beauty and wonder in a towering conception where seeds and birds soar in heightened colours.

Clarke’s sculpture, attached to the gable of the chapel immediately over the entrance door, ‘incorporates the figures of the two thieves who were crucified alongside Christ.’ The sculpture also ‘holds a nugget of glass, a symbol of the eye of God.’ Clarke has used words such as ‘illumination; inspiration; light; kindling of mind and spirit; vision’ to describe the work and was commissioned to create this piece after completing commissions for the Cathedral.

Also alongside the Chapel is John Skelton tau cross entitled Axis Mundi. Skelton created this work while in residence at Bishop Otter College. The vertical block represents life and the horizontal represents the after-life. Both sculptures feature on a sculpture trail around Chichester -

While it is true that, Peter Webster notes, Hussey’s mode of patronage, which ‘depended on a discerning patron, authoritative critic and notable artist working in tandem, disseminating new art downwards to a grateful if uncomprehending public’ was a way of working which was, by the time of his retirement, ‘no longer fit for purpose,’ it had nevertheless accomplished significant achievements across a wider field than church commissions alone and had made a major contribution to reinvigorating the Church’s patronage of the Arts.


Leonard Bernstein - Chichester Psalms.