Cathedrals in step with flower power

EMMA LEE This week Norwich will be awash with beautiful blooms when the city’s two cathedrals join forces for a fundraising flower festival. EMMA LEE reports.

EMMA LEE

Graffiti is something that's usually discouraged. But yesterday the pavements of Norwich were sprayed with vivid yellow paint - and the perpetrators were somewhat unlikely.

Heads were turned on Tombland as women wielding spray cans and stencils painted flowers on the pathway.

Then Fr James Walsh, Dean of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist, and the Dean of Norwich Cathedral, the Very Rev Graham Smith, helped put the finishing touches to their handiwork in London Street.

For the first time the historic places of worship have joined forces to use flower power to raise funds for a hat-trick of projects.

And a trail of stencils has been created across the city to guide visitors along a floral walk between the two venues.

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Friday is the first day of Embrace the World - the Two Cathedrals Flower Festival.

A year in the planning, hundreds of flower arrangers from across the region have been involved and it's hoped the event, which runs until Monday, will attract up to 30,000 visitors.

The deans of both cathedrals met early last year to explore ways in which they could improve their links as they wanted to show all faiths the benefits of working together towards a common goal.

The designs in Norwich Cathedral, by Anne Colchester and Trish Mayhew, will focus on famous people of the world, in traditional style, while those at St John's Roman Catholic Cathedral, by Mary Daykin, will portray countries of the world in modern flower arrangements.

At Norwich Cathedral, which hasn't had a flower festival for 10 years, there will be 100 exhibits arranged by 246 flower arrangers, the Salvation Army Flower Team and pupils of Colby Primary School.

Over at the other side of the city there will be 75 exhibits arranged by 100 flower arrangers, the Salvation Army Flower Team and pupils of Notre Dame.

Around 12,000 flowers will be used in all and flower clubs from across the region were invited to take part.

The festival is billed as a celebration of the importance of flowers in our rural heritage and the skills of the volunteers who make the cathedrals look beautiful all year round.

Sue Nicholson, of the festival committee, paid tribute to those who have been working behind the scenes.

She said: “Organising the festival has been a steep learning curve. It's been hard work and we've only had a relatively short time to put it together.

“The Roman Catholic cathedral had already decided to have a flower festival and the Anglican cathedral wanted to have one too,” she explained. “It was thought it would be a nice idea if the two joined forces.”

Entry to the event is by 'passport' which can either be bought in advance from EDP branch offices (the paper's publisher, Archant, is among the event's supporters) and Jarrolds or on the day.

Costing £7, it's valid for entry to both venues.

The money raised by the event will go towards improvement projects at the two cathedrals and the East Anglian Air Ambulance.

Norwich Cathedral, which is more than 900 years old, has been described as “truly an icon of spirituality, heritage and beauty, as well as one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe.”

Its Inspiration for the Future campaign is working to develop and improve the education and visitor facilities.

The first phase of the project - the Refectory and extension to the library, designed by Sir Michael Hopkins - opened to the public in April 2004.

The second phase of the project is the Hostry - an education and visitor centre.

It will provide two dedicated classrooms and a large community room that will enable the cathedral to expand its educational activities.

There will also be an exhibition space and purpose-designed school and choir facilities and it will add disabled access to all of the cathedral facilities. It's hoped that building work will start in 2007.

The campaign at the Roman Catholic Cathedral Church of St John the Baptist focuses on a new Narthex to provide an education centre, community space and improved access to the cathedral.

The project includes a new interpretation centre and restoration of parts of the cathedral, enabling an expansion of its education programme for schools and for adult and special interest groups.

The third beneficiary of the flower festival, the East Anglian Air Ambulance, provides 365-day emergency cover across the region.

Victims of trauma or other emergencies have a much greater chance of recovery if they have medical care within the first 60 minutes - known as the golden hour - and the air ambulance helps ensure that more victims are reached within this critical period.

East Anglia is one of the largest regions in the UK, covering 5,000 square miles and with a top speed of 132mph the air ambulance can reach patients anywhere very quickly. Its highly trained crew can stabilise them ready for transfer to hospital.

A more spacious air ambulance has come into service with a range of new medical equipment, allowing the team to carry out more procedures.

The extra space means it also has room to take necessary passengers. But running costs for the new aircraft are higher.

It costs £110,000 a month to keep in the air, so fund-raising is now even more important as the charity is entirely dependent on fund-raising and contributions from members of the public.

The mile-long Floral Walk between the two cathedrals - dubbed the city's equivalent of the Yellow Brick Road - is a linked route of displays created by businesses and residents especially for the flower festival weekend in response to a competition organised by Norwich in Bloom.

It takes in Tombland, Queen Street, London St, St Giles Street, Upper St Giles Street and the bridge over Grapes Hill and there will be a window display in Jarrolds.

And a local craft and food market is being held by Produced in Norfolk, who will be filling the cloisters of Norwich Cathedral with an array of tempting goods.

Produced in Norfolk has more than 140 members from contemporary blacksmiths to companies making hand-woven scarves. It was set up with the aim of protecting against rural craft skills being lost and to identify artisan craft and food products which are genuinely made in Norfolk.

It's a not-for-profit producers' co-operative and much work is carried out by local people working voluntarily in the county.

The organisation's work is supported by Defra, and it aims to safeguard 1,000 rural jobs in the area and to create more sustainable tourism and more sustainable economies for rural parts of Norfolk.

And to complete the festival there will be two concerts - one in each cathedral.

Mrs Nicholson said: “We think that it's a unique event - we've never heard of it happening before, and not many cities have two cathedrals.”

t Opening times at both cathedrals: Friday 10am-7pm; Saturday 10am-6pm; Sunday : 12.30pm-6pm (festival evensong in Norwich Cathedral at 6.30pm); Monday 10am-5pm. The last entry will be an hour before closing each day.

t Admission costs £7, £5 for concessions, and students and children under 14 get in free. When visitors pay at one cathedral they will be given a 'passport' to get into the other exhibition. Passports can be bought in advance from Jarrolds and EDP offices throughout the county enabling them to join the 'fast-track' admission queue on arrival. Ticket enquiries/coach party bookings: 01953 604 879.

t Concerts: Friday, June 2, Norwich Citadel Band, St John's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Earlham Road; then Saturday, June 3, Broadland Youth Choir and Norfolk Wherry Brass, Norwich Cathedral, Tombland. Tickets are available from both cathedral shops and from Broadland Music on London Street, Norwich. Tickets cost £7 (£5 concessions), including a complimentary glass of wine.

t Parking: There will be no public parking at either cathedral - please use public car parks around Norwich. There will be very limited disabled parking at both cathedrals. There will be a shuttle bus service between both.

t Links: www.cathedral.org.uk; www.stjohncathedral.org.uk

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