December 2023 – Before planning your visit, please check our ‘Visitor Notices’ for accessibility updates and one-off changes to opening times. Click here to view.
A BEACON OF LIGHT
View from the Lantern (or, roughly halfway up)
This article was written by Laura Simmonds, the Learning and Activities Officer at the Cathedral. It was first published in the July 2022 edition of Link, the monthly newspaper for the Diocese of Newcastle.
Hi folks! I’m Laura, and I’m part of Newcastle Cathedral’s Learning and Activities team. We work with school groups of all ages, from tots right up to university students, as well as with community groups and general members of the public. We run workshops, talks and events of all different shapes and sizes, from a Year 4 class touring the Cathedral and then building their own, to drama performances in the Quire by College students, to pottery workshops ran by artists and aimed at hobbyists. We’re keen on lifelong learning here, so there’s always something for everyone.
I’m running a new tour in July called ‘Northern Souls: Saints that made the North’, which uses our stunning stained-glass windows to explore different Anglo-Saxon and Celtic saints who were important in shaping early Christianity in the British Isles. Keep your eyes peeled for the tour re-appearing in the autumn!
On the subject of tours, we’re always adding new dates to our ‘Dare You Climb the Tower?’ tour, which takes you up the 162 steps to the very top of the Lantern Tower. Whilst I’ve not managed to get to the very top myself (alas, heights are my greatest nemesis), the Bell Ringing Room on the way up is a fantastically surreal and fascinating space, even if you’re not allowed to ring the bells (I know, I’ve asked). But I digress.
Whilst a large portion of the role involves working with schools, much like teachers, our job doesn’t pause for the Summer Holidays – we’ve got a lot going on here at the Cathedral! Our summer is going to be full to the brim with knights, dragons, and Northern Saints, as we dive into the fantastical world of medieval folklore.
The Brilliant Beasts season has been inspired by our St George’s Chapel and George’s famous duel with a particularly angry dragon, and our Victorian misericords (designed by artist Ralph Headley), which are covered in creatures from medieval bestiaries – griffins, wyverns, manticores and even the mythical and monstrous pelican! I wonder who our visitors will stumble across as they explore the Cathedral and our Dragon’s Lair? We’ve got some fun things planned, so watch this space!
There’s even more to do once the schools are back in September. Whilst we will be sadly saying goodbye to Brilliant Beasts, our next grand adventure will involve other museums and galleries around Newcastle. We will be working with the Laing Art Gallery and schools around the North East to explore the Lindisfarne Gospels – a priceless piece of not just Northern, but British history.
We’ll be running workshops all through September to December, so it’s all hands-on deck!