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Story Chair in the Cathedral Crypt

8th September 2023 - 30th September 2023


Changing Lives

The Story Chair – on display in the Crypt throughout September – has been designed with women in touch with the criminal justice system in collaboration with charity Changing Lives, Northumbria University and Newcastle Cathedral, supported by the North East Probation Service and The British Academy.

As part of the project, over 50 participants from Newcastle, Ashington, North Tyneside and Sunderland joined in eight weeks of workshops, honing storytelling and craft skills to illustrate their experiences – many marked by domestic violence and trauma.

The Cathedral’s Revd Jon Canessa explains: “When they visited, the women were captivated with the Cathedral’s crypt, asking if they could use it as a place to share their stories so that others might better understand their experiences.”

Jon heads up the Lantern Initiative, which takes inspiration from the Cathedral’s iconic Lantern Tower and strives to be a beacon of light for those experiencing dark or difficult times. He says, “We want to ensure these women’s inspiring, humbling and powerful stories are heard and celebrated.”

Together, the women wrote complex, emotionally difficult, funny, and, most importantly, real-life stories. The Story Chair, crafted by Nick James from James Design, is an abstract representation of the twists and turns of the women’s lives, the need for a solid base and the lightness once stories have been shared, representing the unique realities the women experienced while highlighting the interweaving nature of shared experience.

Visitors descending into the Crypt encounter three ‘whispering trees’ that house audio narratives featuring personas serving as conduits for sharing the women’s stories. A toolkit has also been developed for use by organisations, including those working in the criminal justice system and others from wider community projects.

Watch this short film about the creation and development of the Story Chair.

Click here to find out more about Newcastle Cathedral’s Lantern Initiative.


8th September 2023
30th September 2023
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Newcastle Cathedral
St Nicholas Square, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1PF, United Kingdom
Newcastle, Tyne & Wear NE1 1PF United Kingdom
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0191 232 1939
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