We spoke to Alex Carton, Head of Learning and Engagement at Peterborough Cathedral, about how its ground-breaking new art exhibition is going from strength to strength – and inspiring new artists to share their work and explore the times in which we live
Tell us a bit about the background to the Made In exhibitions
I think it’d be fair to say that Made In Lockdown, which was our first exhibition back in January and February 2022, was a bit of a ‘suck it and see’ job. We had the idea that it would be a good thing to ask people for their artistic responses to lockdown – an intense period for us all! – and to use the Cathedral as a backdrop for that work. It was open to anybody, in that you didn’t have to be a professional artist or anything like that, and the response to it was overwhelming. I’d say I probably thought, ‘We’ll get a handful of submissions, nobody will be really interested’, but the connection people had to the theme, and to the fact that we were saying anybody could submit for free was a special thing for people.
How did the team at the Cathedral find the experience?
I think we all enjoyed it so much. We enjoyed seeing the response from visitors, and the whole process of putting an exhibition together – we’re not an art gallery and had no experience between us, so that was a… What’s the phrase I’m looking for? A baptism of fire! Yeah [laughs], a baptism of fire.
And that paved the way for this year’s exhibition?
We all agreed we wanted to do something this year. We said, ‘This is amazing’ – but our problem was theme, because once you’ve done Made In Lockdown, how do you follow that? We started off thinking that it would be great to do something for the Queen – we have the Katharine of Aragon festival at the start of the year and of course our own Queen died recently. That was felt to be a little niche, but we all agreed that 2022 was – again! – something of a major year. There’s been the invasion of Ukraine, political turmoil, the death of the Queen and a state funeral, so it felt appropriate.
How is it all going so far?
I’ve just opened up our submissions and we’ve already exceeded the number of submissions, I believe, from last year! We had something like 195 artists submit last time and we’re now up to 200, 201? We’ve also learned lessons after last time – we’ve been a little stricter on the number of pieces that you can submit and we have learned about how to install and run an art exhibition. You might remember that we had to do a social media appeal because one of our pieces was taken. Thankfully, it was returned! We’ve also specified the maximum size artwork can be, that it can’t be explicit, or anti-Christian – and of course it has to relate to 2022!
It feels like a really innovative use of the space, especially within the context of the Cathedral’s 900-year history.
The Cathedral has to adapt in order to survive amongst a changing populace, you know – it has to still be relevant. But also – we are such a glorious space in which to exhibit art! It wasn’t designed for that, but all the niches and nooks turn everything to art, and everything looks so beautiful once it’s in there. It’s also about letting people use the space; it’s for the community, and it’s here for the people of Peterborough. Although we’ve had exhibitions here in the past from professional artists, never before last year have we said, ‘Do you know what? Let’s just open it up and see what happens.’ It’s in keeping with the fact the Cathedral has to constantly reinvent itself.
The Cathedral is grateful to Savills for their support for the exhibition, without which it would not have been possible to go ahead.
Made in 2022
From 8 February to 2 March 2023 Peterborough Cathedral
For more details, visit peterborough-cathedral.org.uk
ALSO AT PETERBOROUGH CATHEDRAL…
Thursday 28 February and Saturday 4 March
Sketching in and around the Cathedral with Karen Neale
Whether you are a doubting doodler or a drawing diva, enjoy the peace and pleasure of drawing the world around us in the beautiful setting of Peterborough Cathedral. The artist Karen Neale will demonstrate details and share sketching secrets! Just bring a sketchbook and pen or pencil.
4 and 8 March
The Peterborough Pilgrimage from Castor to the Cathedral, in collaboration with Hope Walking.
Hope Walking, who run modern-day pilgrimages for people of any or no faith, will be leading this contemplative 6 mile walk along the River Nene from Castor Church to Peterborough, following in the footsteps of St Kyneburgha.
Cathedral Spring Concert
A rousing spring concert with the Cathedral Choir, Youth Choir, Festival Chorus and Peterborough Choral Society. The Choirs will be joined by Linden Baroque Orchestra and the conductor will be Cathedral Director of Music, Tansy Castledine.
Haydn Lord Nelson Mass
Tippett Spirituals (from A Child of our Time)
22 March – 30 April
Threads through Creation by Jacqui Parkinson
An exhibition of 12 large textile panels telling the Genesis story. Jacqui Parkinson returns to
the Cathedral to showcase her stunning exhibition, Threads Through Creation.