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Cathedral’s Summer of Art

Hundreds of years ago, the walls of Ripon Cathedral would have been adorned with religious art and depictions from the Bible. This was all swept away after the Reformation but now Ripon Cathedral is set to be awash with art once again.

Local artist Stephen Guyon Bird, who is also Head of Art and Art History at Ampleforth College, is exhibiting his work, “Genesis: a visual exploration” alongside work by the Northern Committee of the Embroiderer’s Guild. The paintings are an exploration of the nature of drawing and of the richness of the Genesis narratives and their evocative power.

The Genesis project has been funded by the Farmington Institute, Oxford and is touring some of England’s great cathedrals to encourage people to return again to these stories, or turn to them for the first time and wonder about their meaning and significance. Drawing is at the very heart of SG Bird’s work.   He creates imaginative worlds with mermaids, archangels in trilbies; street performers;  Jonah;  Leviathan; the fool – variously set in North Yorkshire’s abbeys , a Deptford pub, a Lambeth street, or by the coast. There are references to the early saints and parables and themes from the Old and New Testaments.

Alongside SG Bird’s work, the Embroiderers’ Guild are exhibiting their work, ‘Perspectives’, which examines architecture and contrasts, as well as the touring exhibition ‘Needle Points North’. The exhibition will be in situ in the nave until the 29th June, whilst ‘Genesis’ is with us until the 13th of June.


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Golden Wedding Service

Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, the Beatles were on the wireless and the first colour TV programmes had just aired. The year was 1967 – a year which for many was the happiest of their life as they tied the knot and embarked on married life.

Fifty years on from what became known as the Summer of Love, Ripon Cathedral is inviting couples celebrating their Golden Wedding, or an even longer time together, to renew their vows in a unique and joyful service on June 11 at 3.30pm.

Last year’s Golden Wedding Service attracted nearly 100 couples. Each ‘bride’ is presented with a beautiful gold corsage. “It is one of the happiest services this cathedral does,” said organiser Linda Bennett, “It’s a service of joy for the celebrating couple and their families in a truly wonderful setting.”

One of the couples attending are Barry and Eleanor Kay. The former Mayor and Mayoress of Ripon are celebrating 51 years of marriage, having been married in 1966.

The Kays have two children and three grandsons. When asked about the secret of their successful marriage Barry said: “My wife’s patience and give and take and we are surrounded by a happy family.” Eleanor added: “ We share common interests and yet have things that we do on our own.”

Anne and Malcolm Race, from Hexham in Northumberland, were married in 1963. They will be attending for the third time. Anne said: “ I think it is really lovely. The fact that we keep coming back shows that. It is a lovely family service and a beautiful memory.”

On being married for over half a century she commented: “We’ve both been church goers and I think you do hold marriage in sanctity. If you feel that it is a meaningful contract you try very hard to make it work.”

The first such service was held in Ripon some 20 years ago. This year’s event will be attended by the Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, Mr Barry Dodd CBE, representing the Queen, and the mayors of local communities. The Dean of Ripon, The Very Rev John Dobson will take the service. He said: “I look forward to celebrating with all those couples who are attending the service, and there is clearly much to celebrate. The Golden Wedding Service is always a joyful occasion in the cathedral’s calendar. It gives an opportunity to reflect on how stable, loving marriages that have come through the ups and downs of life benefit the whole community.”

A celebratory cake is baked for the service and refreshments are served afterwards.

Couples are invited to bring family and fiends and tickets are free. They can be obtained from Linda Bennett at The Chapter House, Ripon Cathedral, Ripon, HG4 1QT.


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Gargoyle Competition Winners Announced

The designs of two talented schoolchildren from our region have been chosen for a pair of new gargoyles at Ripon Cathedral.

More than a thousand schoolchildren from across North Yorkshire submitted entries for the competition, which is being run as part of a project of repairs currently being undertaken in the north east corner of the cathedral – where worn out stonework and crumbling gargoyles are being replaced.

The drawings of Rachael Ogier, aged 10, from Moorside Junior School in Ripon and Hayden Horsfall, aged 10, from Pickering Community Junior School will now be realised in stone and will take their place on the cathedral for centuries to come.

Cathedral Architect Oliver Caroe and two expert stone carvers were amongst the judges who selected ten finalists. The designs were then put on display in the cathedral and members of the public invited to cast their votes.

Ripon Cathedral’s Director of Operations Julia Barker said: “We had such a fantastic response and we are pleased to be working with two schools in the production of these gargoyles which will be here for many generations to come. It’s something not just for them but hopefully for their children and grandchildren.”

Gargoyles were traditionally used to help ward off evil spirits and show that within the church you were protected from evil. The vital work to replace the figures and other historic stonework is being funded by the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund.

The winning school children will now work alongside the architect and stone carvers to see their ideas brought to fruition.

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How do you take down the scaffolding?

Well I discovered the answer to that especially when it is so high. Put a man on each level and pass the parts down the outside.

It is nice to see some scaffolding coming down. We have finished the repairs on two areas so rather than keep the whole scaffold on hire we can take bits down and use our budgets more effectively.

The east end has been revealed and you can see the new pieces of stone and all the clean and new pointing. That part will be coming right down shortly. Whilst the scaffolding was around that corner we have been able to put netting and spikes over the windows to deter the pigeons. The other evening the scaffolding was covered in pigeons so they have obviously got the message and moved from the east window. In further efforts to spread that message Chapter have agreed to put a peregrine nesting box up near the east end pinnacle. If we get a pair nesting in their in spring and young the pigeon population will go down or move on.

The scaffolders in this picture are taking down the scaffolding that covers the north transept where the stone masons have been working on several areas including the stone pillars that are next to the windows where the pins were rusting and splitting the stone. So new pins and new stone have been put in.

The focus now turns to the buttresses and repairing the worn stone under the arches to make sure they are nice and strong.

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Dean John’s response to the Manchester attack

With the rest of the nation we at Ripon Cathedral are shocked and saddened by the horrific terrorist attack in Manchester.

Our hearts go out in a generous tide of sympathy to all those affected, not least the bereaved and injured. We pray for them and those who have died as well as the emergency and security services who are trying to restore and maintain order.

As we continue to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead in this Easter Season, we remember that God’s love and his righteousness will, in the end, conquer all those forces that seek to dismiss and destroy life.

The Very Reverend John Dobson

Dean of Ripon

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An Introduction from Canon Newby

One of the peculiarities of clergy life is that when you move job, you move house and church as well at the same time. If moving house is supposed to be one of the stressful things in life, the combination of moving job and place of worship too intensifies the problem.

Yet –despite all the admin of moving house, and leaving my present churches organised – I am very excited about our move to Ripon. We (my husband Dick and our sons Mark and Roger) have had some great times in North Yorkshire and the Dales over the years both on holidays and visiting family as my husband comes from Rothwell, near Leeds. For him it feels like returning to his roots. My roots are further north still, in Dundee where my own family comes from, though I grew up in London and only briefly went to school in Scotland. Later I was a law student in Durham (with a specialist subject in Theakston’s ales!) before practising law in London first in a big City firm and after that with the charity JUSTICE where I worked on miscarriage of justice cases and life sentence issues.

It was my work with prisoners that led me to seek ordination. There’s not space now to explore all of that and I hope, as we get to know each other, I can tell you more about my life. Presently I’m Team Rector in the Parish of Putney where I lead a team of 3 clergy. Putney is an inner-London suburb that started out as a medieval village on the Thames and we have two beautiful, thriving historic churches.

It has been a good, happy place to be but it is also right to move on. Life changes but in the Church of God it is never a complete parting as we always remain rooted in the Body of Christ. I shall look forward to getting to know you all and worshipping with you in the wonderful cathedral. Please pray for Dick and me as we move, as I am praying for you. Even though we have not yet met on one level we already know all that we need to know to pray for each other: that we seek to follow Jesus Christ. The rest is mere detail!

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Ripon Cathedral Choir Open Day

Cathedral Choir Shines with Youngsters filling the Ranks

Ripon Cathedral was pleased to welcome potential choristers and their families to the Choir Open Day this weekend.

Children from across the region attended the event during which they rehearsed and sang with the cathedral choir.

They were joined for the beautiful service of Evensong by Ripon Grammar School Chamber Choir – which includes a number of former cathedral choristers.

Parents had an exclusive look behind the scenes at the cathedral and heard from boys and girls who had recently left the choir about what they had gained from their experiences and how it had influenced their career choices as they move from school to university.

The cathedral’s Director of Music Andrew Bryden said: “The choristers demonstrated though their wonderful singing why Ripon Cathedral Choir enjoys a first rate reputation. Some of the music was actually composed by an ex-chorister, James Kitchingman, who left just last year!”

Being a chorister demands time and commitment but is incredibly rewarding. The children receive free singing lessons and are reimbursed for their time with regulator payments and a savings plan which accrues around £1,000 for them at the end of their term with the choir.

Choristers are hugely prized by schools. Previous choristers have gone on to sing in the National Youth Choir and have obtained choral and music scholarships to Oxford, Cambridge and Durham.

Anyone interested in auditioning for the choir should contact Ripon Cathedral’s Director of Music, Andrew Bryden on 01765 603496 or email [email protected]

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“I Am Still Me” Photographic Exhibition

A striking photographic exhibition entitled “I Am Still Me” is currently being staged at Ripon Cathedral as part of Dementia Awareness Week.

The portraits are the work of photographer Helen Williams, and seek to highlight the sitter’s identity, rather than their dementia.

Helen invited each person to write who they were on their images – giving them a voice and an opportunity to share their thoughts. She spent nine months getting to know her subjects before picking up a camera.

She explained: “When I did this project I wanted them to just be people – because that’s all they are – it’s just that they’ve got memory issues – that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a conversation with them! The reason I asked them to write on their photograph was because my portrait of them was my narrative but that’s still very singular and I wanted to give them their voice back.”

The exhibition, already featured on ITV, is set to travel the country raising awareness and changing perspectives as it goes.

In Yorkshire and Humberside alone there are some 60,000 people suffering from dementia. Three thousand of those live in the Harrogate District.

Ripon based charity Dementia Forward’s Jill Quinn said: “There is still a stigma attached to dementia and the whole idea of the photographs is to show that the real person is still there. The mission of our charity is to support people to live well with their dementia and not be isolated by it.”

Ripon Cathedral is dementia friendly with staff and volunteers trained to recognise and support those with the disease.

Opening the exhibition the Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson said: “Dementia is a challenge for many individuals and families within this region. The delightful thing about Helen’s wonderful photographs is that they help us to see beyond the dementia to the person and worth of the individual. As Christians it reminds us that every person is loved and valued by God.”

Dementia Awareness week in Ripon also includes a special service at the cathedral at 5.30pm on Sunday May 21 highlighting the problems faced by sufferers and their carers.
The service looking at the impact of dementia, is one of a series of informal café style events which take place at Ripon Cathedral on the third Sunday of every month.

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Cathedral holds Hustings

Ripon Cathedral held a hustings on Saturday May 13th, just under a month before the General Election on June 8th. The Very Rev John Dobson, Dean of Ripon, chaired the lively debate which featured all four candidates for Skipton and Ripon; Julian Smith (Conservatives), Alan Woodhead (Labour), Andy Brown (Green) and Jack Render (Yorkshire).

Over 90 people attended the meeting. Ripon Cathedral has played hosted to a hustings before during the 2015 General Election, providing an unbiased platform for debate and discussion.
The Church of England’s Archbishops have issued a General Election Pastoral Letter stating, “Our first obligation as Christians is to pray for those standing for office, and to continue to pray for those who are elected.”

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Vote for your Favourite Gargoyle at Ripon Cathedral

The designs of ten talented schoolchildren from our region have been chosen to go through to the final of a competition to create two new gargoyles for Ripon Cathedral.

More than a thousand schoolchildren from across North Yorkshire submitted entries for the competition, which is being run as part of a project of repairs currently being undertaken in the north east corner of the cathedral – where worn out stonework and crumbling gargoyles are being replaced.

Cathedral Architect Oliver Caroe and two expert stone carvers were amongst the judges. “We’ve had an age range from about four to 13 and there are some really extraordinary, skilful drawings,” said Mr Caroe, “the amount of creative talent is immense.”

Gargoyles were traditionally used to help ward off evil spirits and show that within the church you were protected from evil. The vital work to replace the figures and other historic stonework is being funded by the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund.

Mr Caroe explained: “There are two key criteria, firstly the design has to be something that can be realised in stone – so you can’t have long arms sticking out or they will fall off! You have to have a nice compact design that can be carved. Secondly, one has to have features that are grotesque – gargoyles are about frightening people so some of those things have to be there is the design. There’s a more difficult criteria though, in that we want designs that are in the spirit and character of the existing gargoyles on the cathedral and for some that will disappoint – no Daleks, no Dr Whos, no Yodas – that sort of thing won’t work here.”

The top ten designs are currently on display at Ripon Cathedral and members of the public are now invited to come along and cast their vote. The winning children will work with the architect and stone carvers to see their ideas brought to fruition – taking their place on the cathedral for centuries to come.

“This is going to create a set of memories for children which will stay with them for ever,” said Mr Caroe, “not just them but their children and possibly their grandchildren will be introduced to the idea of the brilliant material stuff of cathedrals because they will always be pointing up saying: “My grandad designed that!” That is a legacy that you can’t buy – that’s really, really wonderful.”

The Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson said: “It’s a fascinating project – it’s engaged with over a thousand young people across the region. It’s an odd project in some ways – here we are in the 21st Century asking young people to design a gargoyle in a medieval style.

“The great thing about gargoyles is that in a sense they were a warning of the power of evil and the ways in which evil could spoil life on planet Earth and that’s still the case in the 21st Century.

“My hope, however, is that the children create a design which is full of excitement and amusement and which engages people looking at the gargoyles for centuries to come – but which still retains something of the original old purpose – to warn against those forces that would work against God.”

The top ten designs are currently on display in the north transept of Ripon Cathedral and voting will take place until May 21 with the winners announced on May 22.

If you want to find out more about the judging process check out Ripon Cathedral’s Facebook page at

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