As 2014 draws to a close, The Light Ships are safely home. The project has been a wonderful experience: my sincere thanks to everyone who’s been involved. To with you all a very happy Christmas and ring out the year, here is a little film made from our visit to Gosberton’s bellringers back in the summer, when the days were long and the nights warm.
You never know who you might see if you go down to the church today. This summer, Quadring parish church held a teddy bear jump from the tower to raise funds. Bears of all shapes and sizes sailed down on parachutes, to an inspired commentary from Ian, the vicar, and with prizes for the longest and most accurate jump. Inside the church, were homemade cakes, tea and juice – and a concert by The Grizzly Bears, all of whom attend the local primary school, with their tutor, Neave. Here’s a snapshot of their performance:
Quadring is unusual because the church and school stand at some distance from the village itself, though there is a field path connecting them. Like many village schools in the area, Quadring has a strong relationship with the church, so when The Grizzly Bears needed rehearsal space, the church proved ideal. They’ve been able to practice there and have even played at services, including Mothering Sunday.
The style of music has changed, but The Grizzly Bears are just the latest of a very long line of Quadring people who have made music in the church over the centuries. Three of them moved on to secondary school in September, so the band is now renewing itself with new members and a different name, but Neave says there are lots of talented children to step up. The music goes on…
Yesterday, we held the final Light Ships celebration at Gosberton – not in the church, which was taken up with its own Christmas Tree Festival, but in the hall next door. In those much less imposing surroundings, I felt more relaxed about presenting the book than I had standing before the chancel arch at Whaplode and Wrangle, like an amateur preacher. So my talk was both easier to give and closer to what I wanted to say about the joy of working on the project, meeting so many kind and welcoming people, and listening to them speak about why their church and their community matters to them.
The Light Ships has been about gifts, though perhaps it’s only now that I can see it.
The gifts of time and trust that people brought, in coming to meet a stranger in their church, to talk about themselves. The gift of sharing treasures with a visitor – opening drawers, unfolding cloths, rolling back a carpet to reveal a hidden brass, guiding me onto roofs or under spires. The gift of lending photographs and books and knowledge. The gifts of hospitality and welcome, tea and biscuits and saying yes, of course, no problem…
And then, a gift in return, of telling those stories in a way that does them honour and giving each person their own copy of a book that, in its way, is just one more of those memorial books recording the lives of each church community over decades and ultimately centuries.
And yesterday was a day of gifts too. Old friends who drove from Nottingham and Newark to be there for me. A mother who’d organised a letter of permission so that I can put a video online (it will go up later this week). Ian, the vicar, finding time to put up signs to the exhibition in between caring for the sick. Tony, who drove all the way from Sutton Bridge to play the organ, as he has for each event. The Gosberton bellringers – Brian, Carrie Lester, Michael, Nicola, Peter and Rachel – who not only rang at the end of the afternoon, but invited everyone up into the tower to watch and even try their hand on the rope. The Transported team – Joan, Kristina, Lauren, Martin and Richard – who made everything possible: shifting chairs, setting up computers, making tea and, above all, creating a space of welcome for visitors.
All afternoon, in my pocket I could feel a bag of shelled walnuts that was a gift from Lou Thorpe, shared from the abundance of his tree in Holbeach St Johns. How often over centuries, I wonder, has a gift of walnuts been made to someone in the church of Gosberton?
Thursday was Thanksgiving Day in North America, but you don’t need to have got safely across the Atlantic Ocean in a small wooden ship from Boston to feel grateful. As the Light Ships reach harbour, I am deeply thankful for the gift of this time and to all those who helped make it possible.
The second Light Ships event was held at Wrangle Church yesterday afternoon. The November weather outside was a bit chilly, but the welcome inside was all the warmer. A big thank you to everyone who helped make the occasion so special. Here are a few photos – snatched hastily when I wasn’t doing anything else – to remember the day.
And here are the portraits of the Wrangle bellringers included in the exhibition.
The next Light Ships event will be held this Saturday, 22 November, at Wrangle Church.
The main book launch, with a screening of a wonderful old film of Boston in 1943, will be at 3.00pm – but do come a bit earlier if you can, to see the exhibition and enjoy being in one of the Fenland’s loveliest churches. From 2.00pm there’ll be refreshments and an organ recital by Tony Fitt-Savage, who was organist at Sandringham for almost 40 years.
From today, The Light Ships is also available as a free download. It is a PDF file, which most computers can open with a programme like Acrobat Reader. It can be enlarged on screen for easier reading, or printed out. There are two versions: the low-resolution file takes less time to download, but the high-res file has better quality pictures. Click on the links below to save the file to your computer.
Copies of the printed books will be available on Saturday at Wrangle and the following Saturday, 29 November, at Gosberton, where the launch coincides with the church’s seasonal Christmas Tree Festival. From 1 December 2014, you can also buy copies for £5 plus postage from Transported:
Holbeach St. Marks Community Association Building,
Sluice Road, Holbeach St. Marks, Lincolnshire PE12 8HF
Phone 01406 701006 Email TransportedLauren@litc.org.uk
Books will also be available through the churches included, with all proceeds will go to church funds or supporting future arts opportunities in Boston Borough and South Holland District.
Many thanks to everyone who came to the Light Ships event at Whaplode Church yesterday afternoon. It was wonderful to see so many friendly faces and to finally be able to share the work with the people involved. I’ll add some photos from the day here as soon as possible. And special thanks to Tim Galley and Tony Fitt-Savage whose organ recitals created such lovely music during the exhibition, to Jo Wheeler for recreating her Village Postcard project specially in the porch, and most of all to the community of St Mary’s who welcomed us, refreshed us and rang the bells to send us on our way.
It’s not over yet though – the exhibition will be open today after the Remembrance Day Service and The Light Ships book will be on sale in aid of church funds. And there will be exhibitions at Wrnagle Church on 22-23 November and Gosberton Church on 29-30 November too.
Finally – a glitch. It seems that some copies of the book have a binding error which means that pages 9-24 are missing and pages 25-40 are included twice. If anyone came away from the event yesterday with a defective copy, please let me know, or contact Lauren Williams at Transported and we’ll replace it with a good one.
The first of the Light Ships events will take place this Saturday, 8 November, at St Mary’s Church in Whaplode. As well as the chance to see one of the loveliest and most unusual churches in the fens, there will be exhibitions, film screenings and the launch of The Light Ships book. Among the work to be seen will be
- Village Postcards by Jo Wheeler for Transported
- Drawings of local churches by Rosie Redzia
- An Exhibition of work by Local Artists, organised by Mary Brice
- Woollen Sculptures made by Lincolnshire knitters
There will be two organ recitals and the church’s 300 year old bells will be rung. At 3.00pm we will be showing two wonderful historic films.
- COUNTRY TOWN was filmed in Boston in 1943 and gives a fantastic portrait of this ancient town;
- On a lighter note, WRESTLING PARSON, was made in 1963 about Reg Thomspon, wrestler and vicar of Moulton Chapel.
The Light Ships book will be introduced, and there will be tea and cake afterwards. Do come if you can – and please tell others who may be interested too. This is a special opportunity to celebrate the place of the church in community life and everyone is most welcome.
The culmination of The Light Ships project will happen in November 2014 in three events to celebrate the place of art in the life of the village and the church at:
Whaplode Church – Saturday 8 November
Wrangle Church – Saturday 22 November
Gosberton Church – Saturday 29 November
Each event will be from 2.00pm until 4.30pm,with the book launch at about 3.00pm
In addition to the presentation of The Light Ships book, there will be
- An exhibition of art inspired by Lincolnshire churches
- Archive films of Boston and the fenland villages
- Tea, coffee and cake – and a chance to meet other people who’ve been involved
Each weekend will have special features: at Wrangle Church a peal will be rung to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the bells, while at Gosberton there will be a Christmas Tree Festival organised by the community. Others special moments are being planned as I write…
If you can’t come on Saturday afternoon, the exhibitions will be open from 10am to 4.00pm on the Saturday and Sunday of each weekend.
The events will be informal and everyone is welcome – bring a friend, spread the word.
If you’re able to be there, a phone call or email would be really helpful so we can organize the right number of cakes! You can let Lauren know at Transported on:
01406 701006 or 07747 271824 or TransportedLauren@1Life.co.uk
But that’s not essential: the important thing is to come and help us celebrate these wonderful buildings and the place they’ve held in our villages for hundreds of years. Click on the picture below to download the invitation to your computer.
Now, it’s back to the proofreading – the final text goes to the printers on Monday…
It’s been quiet on The Light Ships blog because there’s so much to do getting the book ready and preparing for the events which will be happening in November – more news about all that next week. But in the meantime, here are some photos of the Italian Chapel, on the island of Lamb Holm. I had a longstanding invitation to give a lecture in Kirkwall at the end of September so I got to spend a weekend in Orkney, which is one of the loveliest and most interesting places I know. When a friend took me to see the Chapel I saw why it is the most visited site in an area not short of wonderful monuments right back to Neolithic times.
The chapel was created by Italian prisoners of war, who were in Orkney to work on the Churchill Barriers which link several islands and close the eastern approach to Scapa Flow. The men requested a chapel and were assigned a couple of Nissen huts. In a few months of 1943, using only salvaged materials and working in their spare time, they created an extraordinary vision of the kind of church they were used to attending at home. Several men were skilled craftsman, including the painter Domenico Chiocchetti, who was responsible for the Madonna and Child among much else.
When they left, in September 1944, they entrusted the chapel to the people of Orkney who have looked after it impeccably in subsequent years. Signor Chiocchetti and others of the men involved returned in later years to do repairs and add further embellishments, cementing a friendship that had grown in the least auspicious of circumstances, and across all the cultural distance between Orkney and Italy. Today, the Italian Chapel continues to bear witness to humanity’s creativity in its search for meaning: a northern light ship.
It’s not just in the Lincolnshire Fens that the parish church plays an important part in community life. Today Scotland chooses its future, and in some places the local church doubles as polling station. This image, tweeted by the Seonag MacKinnon, Head of Communications for the Church of Scotland, brought a wry smile…