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St Cuthbert Festival

22 February 2016

Durham Cathedral is gearing up for one of its busiest celebrations of the year as preparations for the annual St Cuthbert’s Festival get underway.
 
The festival marks the official saint’s day of St Cuthbert, whose body was brought to Durham by the monks from Lindisfarne, who then built Durham Cathedral as his final resting place and shrine.
 
St Cuthbert is often referred to as the Patron Saint of Northern England and every year and array of special services and celebratory events are held on and around his saint’s day. This year is no exception and the St Cuthbert’s Festival will be kick-started with an evening of folk music as The Alistair Anderson Band performs A Lindisfarne Gospel on Wednesday 16 March, 7.30pm.
 
Alistair is an internationally renowned folk musician who is well-known in the North East for founding Folkworks, an organisation that helped change the face of folk music, with large numbers of young people discovering traditional music, song and dance through their summer schools, workshops and education projects. Folkworks became one of the two founding partners of Sage Gateshead and later Alistair developed England’s first degree course in folk and traditional music in association with Newcastle University.
 
A Lindisfarne Gospel was composed in 2013 in celebration of the display of the Lindisfarne Gospels on the Durham World Heritage Site. This performance at the St Cuthbert’s Festival will be the piece’s  first ever performance at Durham Cathedral, the resting place of St Cuthbert, in whose honour the Anglo-Saxon Lindisfarne Gospels was written. Tickets: £22 (£18 concession), £18 (£14 concession), £14 (£10 concession), available from the Gala Theatre Box Office 03000 266600 or www.galadurham.co.uk
 
On Friday 18 March, 7.30pm Durham Cathedral Choir is joined by Newcastle Cathedral Choir to honour our Northern Saint in a Sung Eucharist and procession on the eve of St Cuthbert. The service concludes with a pilgrimage to the Feretory, the Shrine of St Cuthbert. Incense is used during this service.
 
A wide range of events for all the family are held on Saturday 19 March throughout the day and evening, including free tours of Durham Cathedral, stonemasonry demonstrations, talks, a special bell peal and much more, culminating in a Festal Evensong in celebration of St Cuthbert.
 
The popular St Cuthbert’s Day Walk and Procession, which symbolises the arrival of the body and relics of St Cuthbert in Durham in 994AD is organised by The Northumbrian Association and starts at 9.30am at St Mary’s and St Cuthbert’s Church in Chester-le-Street. The eight mile walk arrives at Durham’s Market Place from where the St Cuthbert Banner will be carried in procession up to the Cathedral. The banner and the walkers are welcomed to the Cathedral at 2.15pm for a procession and prayers at the Shrine of St Cuthbert.
The walk is guided and is eight miles long, anyone is welcome to join but please wear sturdy footwear and dress appropriately for the weather. This is a free event – to reserve a place please contact events@durhamcathedral.co.uk
 
Throughout the day, visitors to the Cathedral can also enjoy the Local Producers’ Market, held in the Cathedral Cloister from 10am – 4pm. This is an opportunity to purchase local food and produce and is organised by Durham Markets Company.
 
For the younger visitors, storyteller Adam Bushnell will be on hand from 10am – 4pm to celebrate St Cuthbert with stories about the Anglo Saxons and the vicious Vikings! There will be handling objects and other activities suitable for ages 3+. Durham Cathedral will also be launching a new children’s book titled ‘Discover the Venerable Bede’.  This is a free event – no need to book. 
 
The celebrations culminate with a Special Service, Festal Evensong and procession at 5.15pm. This service is a joyous commemoration of the life of St Cuthbert, that includes the Lucernarium (the blessing of the light), and the offering of incense. It concludes with a pilgrimage to the Feretory, the Shrine of St Cuthbert, where the Cathedral Choir will sing Ikon of St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, by John Tavener, written specially for Durham Cathedral.
 
For more information about the Festival and associated events please visit www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/st-cuthbert-festival

Photo: Courtesy of NCJ Media