The Liturgical Commission:

The Inaugural Manchester Group Meeting

On Thursday April 29th a group of us met at Manchester Cathedral, to initiate the Cathedral’s participation in the Faerie Queene project.

Ewan Fernie came up from London. Michael Symmons Roberts was also there. Participants from Manchester Cathedral included: Andrew Shanks (canon theologian), Rachel Mann (official ‘cathedral poet’), Albert Radcliffe (founder of the Manchester Cathedral International Religious Poetry Competition), Pam Elliott (cathedral education officer), and Michael Powell (librarian of Chethams Library).

We envisage a major liturgical event – with elements of Spenserian inspiration – on the evening of Sunday May 8th, 2011, to celebrate St. George, as one of the saints to which the cathedral is dedicated. Since St. George’s Day falls on Easter Saturday it’s necessary to transfer the cathedral’s patronal festival to a nearby Sunday, and May 8th seems the most suitable.

In addition to poetry and jazz, the event will hopefully also be graced by Catalan-style ‘giants’, to be made, if the necessary funds can be raised, by an art group from the Booth Centre for the Homeless, which is based at the cathedral. These will be based on the image in the new reredos of the cathedral’s Fraser Chapel, painted by Mark Cazalet: a representation of St. George as a young black man in an England football shirt, with bolt cutters liberating a chained up and very miserable looking dragon, against a background of urban squalor. The dragon here represents Passion, as in many interpretations of the conventional story – but not incontinent Passion requiring to subdued. Rather, this is Passion for Urban Renewal, which has to be unlocked.

We also discussed how this event might be incorporated into the cathedral’s wider educational programme; and how that might also draw on the resources of Chetham’s Library, with its various ancient texts relating to the St. George story. It was decided, for instance, that next year we will make St. George the theme of our annual Religious Poetry Competition for Schools.

In general, we are very conscious of the need to rescue St. George’s Day from attempts by political groups on the Far Right to co-opt it for propaganda purposes. Such groups have in the past gathered immediately outside the cathedral on St. George’s Day, with their flags of St. George flying. The cathedral meanwhile is flying the same flag from its tower, with diametrically opposite intent. There’s a conflict here, which we need to engage with all the imaginative energy we can muster.

And so we discussed ways and means.

Andrew Shanks

Back to Manchester Group Personnel page.

Back to The Faerie Queene Liturgy Project page.