'The Art of Words' Festival

First published on: 22nd September 2022

A season of celebrations is taking place to mark the creation of the Lindisfarne Gospels on Holy Island around 1300 years ago.

‘The Art of Words’ festival, organised by St Mary’s Church, Holy Island, and Lowick and Holy Island C of E First Schools, was set to take place last year but had to be delayed due to Covid-19.

Parishioners and pupils are now joining a variety of artists and experts this autumn to shine a light on one of the world’s most famous books.

It is believed that the Gospels were written on Holy Island by Eadfrith, between 715-720 AD. Acknowledged as a masterpiece of Anglo-Saxon England, the book is a decorated copy of the Gospels of the Bible, recounting the life of Jesus. It features ornate painted lettering, drawings and patterned pages with multi-cultural influences.

Revd Canon Dr Sarah Hills, Vicar of St Mary’s, Holy Island said: “Eadfrith was Bishop of Lindisfarne from 698 and devoted years of his life to producing the Lindisfarne Gospels as a dedication to God and St Cuthbert.

“He died around 721AD and ‘The Art of Words’ will celebrate this beautiful book and recognise its perilous journey following the Viking invasion.

“We will also reflect on how sharing culture and ideas and treasuring diversity can help us to achieve peace and reconciliation in our own lives.”

The festival will feature guest speakers and artists including a musical workshop with Lowick and Holy Island C of E First Schools and a concert for other local schools featuring composer Paul Edis and the Ushaw Ensemble.

Paul said: “There is so much rich history surrounding the Gospels and being commissioned to work with the schools and to write a new Lindisfarne Gospels inspired composition is incredibly exciting.

“As someone who grew up in the North East, it's an area of local history I'm keen to learn more about, and to see what musical ideas emerge in response to this historical, theological and cultural artefact.

“I established the Ushaw Ensemble in 2016 to perform new music based on the life and story of St. Cuthbert, so writing something about the Lindisfarne Gospels feels like the next chapter for the band!”

The Eadfrith and Lindisfarne Gospels celebrations on Holy Island are supported by the Handley Trust and Allchurches Trust.

The Lindisfarne Gospels will go on display at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, on loan from the British Library in the autumn of 2022.

Head of Lowick and Holy Island Church of England First Schools, Rebecca Simpson, said: “We’ve been weaving themes from the Gospels and their journey into our lessons and the autumn events are a wonderful way for our pupils to join musicians on a creative path of learning.”

A large interactive digital copy of the Lindisfarne Gospels can be viewed at the Lindisfarne Centre on Holy Island where people can learn more about the island’s community and heritage: http://www.lindisfarnecentre.org/

Information on the celebrations can be found at: http://www.stmarysholyisland.org/gospels


Sunday 28 August to 31 December 2022: ‘Book of Lindisfarne Gospels Reflections’ in St Mary’s Church – an invitation for people to write or draw their reflections on what the Lindisfarne Gospels means to them today in a ‘Lindisfarne Gospels’ book. People can also take part via the St Mary’s Church, Holy Island page on Facebook.

Saturday 24 September: 7.30pm concert: Alana Levandoski, a
contemplative folk songwriter and a graduate of Richard Rohr’s Living
School for Action and Contemplation with special guest Malcolm Guite, poet, theologian and songwriter.

Friday 30 September:

  • Morning workshops and afternoon concert for schools.
  • Evening concert: 7.30pm: Paul Edis and the Ushaw Ensemble: part one: a mix of repertoire, part two: original composition and St. Cuthbert Suite. 

Monday 3 October during the day: Illumination – sound and light – by The Projection Studio in collaboration with Durham University.

Thursday 6 October: 7.30pm, Talk: Professor Michelle Brown, a leading expert on the Lindisfarne Gospels and former Curator of the Illuminated Manuscripts at The British Library.

Saturday 15 October: 11.30am and 2pm: Concert: Sing United Choir

Saturday 22 October 7.30pm: Organ Recital, Nigel Lockwood, ‘Music through the Ages’

Saturday 29 October: 1pm concert: Anglican choral music based on the Lindisfarne Gospels. 5pm: Lindisfarne Gospels Festival Choral Evensong.

Saturday 12 November: 11.30am-12.30pm: Talk: ‘Birds of the Lindisfarne Gospels’ by Ian Kerr.

Sunday 27 November: 10.45am: Deanery Festival Eucharist with the Bishop of Berwick and procession to Lindisfarne Priory.

Other events: dates to be confirmed:

  • Talk on the theme of ‘Reconciliation and the Lindisfarne Gospels’, by Padraig O’ Tuama, poet, peacemaker and theologian.
  • Lighting up of the Berwick Border Bridge in Northumberland colours: Friday 4 November tbc.
  • Exhibition: Judy Hurst artwork: illuminated vellum.
  • Talk by Diocese of Newcastle’s Canon Theologian, Revd Canon Dr Jennifer Cooper on the theology of the gospels.
  • Podcast on the Lindisfarne Gospels by Revd Canon Kate Tristram.
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