Annual theme blog post: January 2018

It’s amazing how time flies! This Saturday sees the public launch of our annual theme for 2018 and it seems timely to take a look back at what we covered in our previous programme All Things Bright and Beautiful.

Our 2017 theme last year actually began at the start of Advent 2016 and was launched by the Bishop of Salisbury with an inspiring sermon. We were exploring ecology and the environment through science, faith and the arts and we were fortunate to have a broad and varied range of talks, workshops and events to help the Cathedral community and the city residents explore this theme in more depth.

By this time last year we had already had our first cluster of All Things Bright and Beautiful lectures, featuring the talents of Dan Oakley, Dark Skies Ranger for South Downs National Park and Jo Preston from the University of Portsmouth who spoke about her project to reintroduce native oysters to the Solent. We had also enjoyed the first of our Woodland Walks guided by Dr Sara Collins through the Hundred Acre Woods.

Early January saw the arrival of the willow dome on the Cathedral green, which was constructed by Chris Jenkins with the help of some local school children from Cottage Grove. The spring brought with it our next season of lectures featuring Dr Ruth Valerio who is now Global Advocacy and Influence Director at Tearfund, Professor Dave Goulson who spoke about his research work on bees and a more creative and reflective session led by our annual theme curator, Sharon Court.

The All Things Bright and Beautiful programme saw us partnering up with new groups and organisations, who enabled us to explore the theme from many different perspectives. These new partnerships also introduced the Cathedral to people who hadn’t engaged with us previously, which was a very positive result from the project.

These new partnerships included Jack House Gallery, Blue Reef Aquarium and Lush cosmetics who filled the Cathedral with amazing scents as they explained their proactive approach to plastic waste reduction and environmentally-friendly products.

Our work alongside the University of Portsmouth led us to the pub – or more precisely, to The Barley Mow, to support one of the Earth Sciences faculty’s ‘Pint of Science’ events. This annual national festival sees researchers sharing news of their work in pub venues across the country and we were delighted to support the event as part of our annual theme programme.

The summer saw another partnership event, this time with a range of local environmental organisations. The Grassroots Festival was intended to promote and celebrate the work of the many organisations who fight to keep environmental issues on the political and domestic agenda, reminding us of the many ways we can reduce our negative impact on the plant. Fifteen organisations from across the south were represented by stalls and short talks, including a notable presentation by Walter Menteth on the proposed Southsea Coastal defences. This sparked considerable local interest and close to 100 people came to hear his explanation of the potential options for defending the island from rising sea levels. His talk went to inspire further local events and presentations on the issue which has now been taken up by city council.

Late summer featured another talk, this time by Portsdown Ranger, Richard Jones who shared the often hidden beauty of Portsdown Hill. A family activity day in August saw families using recycled materials to make robots of all sorts, before settling down to watch the Pixar movie WALL-E.

Our annual theme closed with a flourish, with the residency of Ginny Topp and members of the Claystation which was funded by a grant from Awards for All. Over the course of three weeks, over four hundred members of the public came into the Cathedral to make individual clay fish from paper-porcelain clay. Upon these fish were inscribed hopes and wishes and many of these were poignant hopes for loved ones who were ill or experiencing hard times.

The clay fish were installed with the help of The Makers Guild and now make a stunning addition to the north side of the Nave. Whilst remedial repairs and building work has been happening in the building, the north doors have often been left ajar, allowing a gentle breeze to pass through, stirring the fish and creating a gentle, melodious tinkling sound.

The celebration event in mid-November saw the end of the annual theme project, which had far exceeded our expectations in many ways! More events and activities took place throughout the year which haven’t been mentioned here, and many of the new partnerships and events which took place have drawn in new visitors and enabled us to develop our links across the city.

The theme for 2018 is Time and already the Outreach team can see that the programme is even bigger than last year! The events fall broadly into three categories: Time to Reflect, Time to Learn and Time to Engage and these aspects intentionally incorporate existing aspects of Cathedral life such as Evensong and Sunday services as well as mid-week activities. Talks will take place throughout the year, as well as specialist events and this year looks to be as engaging as ever.

We will be asking ourselves: How can the exploration of Time, deepen our understanding of ourselves, our spirituality and our engagement with the world around us? We warmly welcome you to join us on this journey as we have adventures in Time and Faith!

Portsmouth Cathedral