Leominster Priory's Threads Through Creation draws in local community

Published on: 23rd May 2024

Orleton CE Primary school children on pilgrimage

On World Environment Day, 5th June, 250 school children from two local primary schools (pictured left) will make a 5K pilgrimage to Leominster Priory to take part in a community-led celebration of arts and environmental education, focused on the Creation. It’s the brainchild of Father Guy Cole, Rector of Leominster Priory. It is centred around a major work of textile art, “Threads through Creation” (pictured right) by Jacqui Parkinson, which is on display at the Priory throughout the event. Part-funded by Hereford Diocese’s Mustard Seed Fund, the exhibit has triggered an out-pouring  of community involvement and creativity, with many organisations, artists and audiences visiting the Priory for the first time.

“We’re harking back to the Priory’s role as a Benedictine monastery, where being a centre for the arts, education and healing pulled in the surrounding community,” says Fr. Guy. “It made sense to start at the beginning, with Genesis, the first book of the Bible,” he continues, “especially in this Year of Faith, where we’re re-visiting the Bible as the foundation of faith. Our collaborative, community-led events are bringing new groups of people from the town and surrounding area into the Priory for the first time. We also know that the arts can have a real impact on the life and well-being of a community, through a sense of discovery, achievement and wonder. By bringing together local organisations, like schools, nurseries and special schools, care homes, Leominster in Bloom , Leominster Quilters and ECHO, (which provides opportunities for adults with learning difficulties), we’re opening up our doors – and resources - for the whole community.” 

Adam Breakwell is Executive Head of the two primary schools making the 5K pilgrimage, Orleton and Kimbolton St James CE Primary Schools. He says, “When we saw the Threads event coming up, we thought it was a great opportunity to develop some important strands we’ve been working on: Fairtrade, Courageous Advocacy, the Creation and the Environment. Orleton is becoming a Fairtrade village, and we’ve been working with our pupils on our responsibility for the environment, in terms of how we use resources and how we can use our voices for good. Our route will involve other organisations in the community, like farms that will move their cows for us, and a care home which is providing refreshments. Once we reach the Priory we’ll be performing songs about Creation and visiting the exhibits, using the breadth of ideas on display to expand our knowledge of other faiths' creation stories, as well as the Bible story.”

For the Priory Arts team, led by Music Director Hilary Norris, it’s the breadth of activities and deep community collaboration that is important. “Leominster is a great place to live and work because of the warmth, good-will and connectedness of the community - 50 community groups (including 14 schools) have worked together to celebrate Creation. Up to 3,000 children are expected to take part! And there is a huge range of cross-cultural activities including a 'Biryani and Bakes' lunch with the local Keralan community, and a gamelan residency providing opportunities for students and members of the public to experience music and stories from Java. The programme also includes globally-renowned musicians such as violinist Julia Bishop, concert organist David Briggs and the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra. But we also have workshops digging into Creation quite literally, from how to attract bees, to growing herbs and practising permaculture. We're also delighted to be running alongside the Leominster Festival this year, and special events organised by Leominster Museum, and hope that the Priory activities add a new dimension for residents and visitors.”

Many of the events are free, including guided nature walks and stitchery workshops, and several celebratory church services focused on Creation. The events are set against a backdrop of Jacqui Parkinson’s giant textile panels themed around Genesis. The Threads through Creation panels, now in the second year of their national tour, have graced some of our largest cathedrals, but nowhere, perhaps, have they inspired such a huge and diverse outpouring of creativity as in this parish church, one of the smallest venues to host them. Says textile artist Jacqui, “My Christian faith is the creative trigger in most of my work. My work is designed to catch the eye and set you thinking.” In Leominster, it seems, they have set the whole town making.

Threads Through Creation runs from June 5th to July 18th and full details are available from Priory Arts.

NOTE: Priory Arts has received funds from Herefordshire Community Foundation as well as £15,000 from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to support its Threads through Creation programme.

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