Gloucester Cathedral ran a Big Draw Festival event entitled The Cathedral Colouring In Challenge from 22nd to Sunday 29th October. We caught up with Helen Jeffrey, Community Engagement Manager to discuss drawing in the fantastic setting of the Cathedral, drawing through history and more!
BD: Hi Helen! This is the first year that Gloucester Cathedral have completed a large scale event for The Big Draw Festival. What motivated you to get involved and start spreading the message of visual literacy?
GC: As part of Project Pilgrim I have joined the team here at the Cathedral to widen opportunities for accessible learning and engagement. Key to the project vision is to continue the hospitality of our Benedictine site and extend our warm welcome to all. One way we are doing this is to ensure that we provide inclusive, creative and accessible events and activities. I am an avid supporter of using art as a wonderful way of uniting people, providing creative shared learning experiences that can really stimulate young and old and give individuals a real confidence in themselves. The Big Draw Festival seemed a great opportunity to link in to a big art activity here.
BD: It must be great to have the opportunity to arrange events in the impressive space of Gloucester Cathedral. What are some of your favourite things about running events or workshops in the space, and how did you use its unique opportunities in your Big Draw Festival?
GC: One of the things I most enjoy is when people say ‘I didn’t think I’d be allowed to do this here’. Or ‘Wow, this is a great thing in such a majestic space’. The Cathedral encourage use of the building in creative ways and we enjoy seeing others appreciate, learn, understand and experience this amazing space. The architecture is breathtaking and is testament to just how important faith has been to those who built it. It is awe-inspiring. The space provides meaning to everyone who visits so one of the ways we have embraced that ‘wow’ factor is using the incredible architecture in the art work that visitors have been colouring as part of our Big Draw event. Many have learned more about the fabulous cloisters, the famous fan-vaulted ceilings and the use of the space through the Cathedrals history, because of this event.
BD: What are some ways that the Cathedral has intersected with visual literacy or the arts throughout history? I know there’s some medieval graffiti on site – on top of the tomb of Edward II! Are there any other examples you’d care to highlight?
GC: The plethora of stained glass is one way the Cathedral illustrates this. There are windows from a long time line of periods right up to contemporary glass work that visitors can interact with – experiencing the colours, shapes and symbols. Stained glass was one way to tell bible stories and Christian teachings in the past to those who couldn’t read, using images rather than words.
BD: Architectural artist Amy Jane Adams has been commissioned as part of your event in 2017. Would you mind talking a little bit about Amy’s practice and how it ties in with the Giant Colouring-in Carpet at the cathedral?
GC: We commissioned Amy Jane to design the colouring carpet as she completely understands the complex and rich history of the Cathedral and has a passion and clear talent for interpreting this through the architecture of the space. Her style is contemporary, detailed with fun and flare that appeals to a very wide audience. Her design of the cloister ceiling for the carpet is a fantastic repeated pattern of art that allows visitors to ‘paint the ceiling’ and see the detail first hand. The vision of a large scale artwork was aimed at providing a shared learning experience for families but also for individuals or groups visiting who could work alongside others and take part in a very sociable activity. I also wanted to ensure there was a meditative feel to the design so those with busy lives could come and switch off and take time for their own wellbeing. Amy Jane understood this from our first meeting and has made a vision become reality, far exceeding expectations.
Amy Jane has added to the project by creating a large installation exhibit running alongside the carpet activity. The exhibit explores the architectural history of the Cathedral and the key individuals who influenced the building and its architecture from additions, restorations, remodeling and more. She has been drawing live during the week so visitors can also see her work. She has inspired our visitors, volunteers and staff on a daily basis!
BD: Can you explain to our readers a bit about Project Pilgrim, and the plans for the future of the cathedral?
GC: Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and through the generosity of Trusts and individuals, Project Pilgrim is a ten-year programme of capital development, regeneration and community engagement at Gloucester Cathedral. It’s about involving people to bring the Cathedral’s history and religious purpose to life so everyone benefits.
Project Pilgrim will provide opportunities for all people, whatever their age, background or faith,to learn about, respond to and interact with Gloucester Cathedral.
BD: What are some of the benefits you see of taking part in The Big Draw Festival? Is there any advice or guidance you would give to those that are uncertain about registering to put on their own event?
GC: The Big Draw Festival is a wonderful annual event that gives organisations of all sizes the chance to think creatively and put on their own activities for the community. Finding support for art and drawing via an internationally renowned organisation like this helps give weight to the learning aims of art, culture and heritage sites. I find the marketing material and website helps us gain a much further reach in terms of audiences who hear about us, particularly schools.
BD: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions Helen, the final word is yours!
GC: We have loved our Big Draw challenge this year and it has brought a lot of teams together at the Cathedral to make it happen. Our volunteers have worked tirelessly to greet visitors and get them colouring. Amy Jane has been an inspiration to all who have met her and her work is a fantastic way to engage more people in both the Cathedrals history and in art. Every visitor who has come to take part has said they love it and want it to happen again.
The best way to end is to quote a visitor who said:
“This has been great. Thank you for putting it on. People should stop thinking that art, especially colouring, is just for children, it’s for everyone and it’s the best way to learn and look after your wellbeing at the same time. What are you waiting for? Paint, Draw, Make and Be Happy”
Gloucester Cathedral is a Big Draw Festival 2017 Sponsor-Partner.
The Big Draw's worldwide impact is made possible by the support of many organisations and individuals who share its vision. Without them and the commitment of hundreds of venues across the globe, our mission would be unachievable. Interested in becoming a festival Sponsor-Partner? Take a look here for some of the benefits.
We hope you enjoyed our interview with Gloucester Cathedral! If you have been inspired by their insights why not become a part of the world's largest drawing festival in 2017 or 2018?
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