THE medieval churches of Norwich and its medieval cathedral are to be at the heart of a new festival this spring which will celebrate their history, culture, and relevance in the 21st century.
Flintspiration, named after the distinct knapped flint of the 31 Grade I listed medieval churches across the city, is due to run from 28 April to 1 May. Guided tours, exhibitions, craft demonstrations, historical re-enactments, and ale-tasting are some of the hundreds of events being planned to inspire national interest in the collection.
Norwich is thought to have the highest number of medieval churches in Northern Europe. “We are hoping that people who have not experienced churches before will enjoy an introduction here,” the project officer, Heather Guthrie, said. “But we also hope that seasoned churchgoers and visitors across the country will be attracted to Norwich for this unique festival.”
The festival is being organised by Norwich Churches Trust, supported by a £68,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The trust has also formed a partnership with the diocese of Norwich, the City Council, the Churches Conservation Trust, and the University of East Anglia (UEA). Researchers at UEA are currently conducting a three-year project on the medieval churches of Norwich.
The project’s principal investigator, Professor Sandy Heslop, said: “Our project and the Flintspiration initiative will help to highlight what a remarkable asset these buildings and churchyards are in defining the cityscape and its history.”
The weekend will start with a celebration at Norwich Cathedral, incorporating choral evensong. The cathedral will also offer special tours and activities for children during the weekend. St Peter Mancroft will act as a hub of the festival, hosting the visitor centre and an exhibition about the churches. Its bell-ringers are planning to ring a full peal, lasting three hours. About 10,000 people are expected to take part. Special trails are being developed to teach visitors about the relationship between the churches, churchyards, and historical figures of the city, including Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe. A historical re-enactment, tying together their stories, is also planned.
Of the 31 medieval churches, 18 are no longer used for worship and have been deconsecrated. The Norwich Historic Churches Trust, founded 44 years ago, is responsible for conserving these buildings, which are now home to art galleries, bookshops, cafés, and a circus company.
St Clement’s is now a workshop for training stonemasons, who are planning to put on demonstrations and a procession reminiscent of the ancient guild parades.
The vice-chairman of the Trust, Neil Blunt, said: “We see Flintspiration as a joint invitation to residents and visitors to understand all 31 medieval churches as a set; to come inside their doors and appreciate their stories.”