Katrina ffiske

Salisbury Cathedral is bravely mixing politics, art and religion in Ladders of Light – a new constitution for the UK.

The art installation responds to the strange times the country is going through at the moment with Brexit.

When launching the installation, the Dean, The Very Rev’d Nicholas Papadopulos, welcomed the artists, Lemn Sisray and Mary Branson, art critics, and the public to the cathedral. “It’s strange times,” the Dean said. “Barely a sermon goes by without a mention of the troubled period we are going through: these are thought-provoking times.”

Lemn Sisray, poet, playwright and broadcaster, recited the Magniloquent Cartilage, a poem in the form of 12 Clauses which echo the 1215 Magna Carta, housed in the Chapter House. Mary Branson introduced her complementing installation: delicate ladders with illuminated red rungs that reach up into the gallery and criss-cross the nave.

Curator Jacquiline Creswell, poet Lemn Sissay and artist Mary Branson at the launch of Ladders of Light. photo by Zachary Culpin

When speaking to Lemn Sisray, I am swept away with his enthusiasm for social change. “I visited here a couple of times, and seeing the 1215 Magna Carta made me realise how bound we are by rules,” Lemn said.

“I wrote my own poetic ‘charter’ for Liberty and for the heart. Each clause demands simple but powerful actions of the reader.”

Lemn is inviting us, and the Government, to view things differently.

“It’s beautiful to have each clause in large letters placed throughout the cathedral against the walls. I love the fact that people will be staring at a wall they have never stared at before and will be absorbing these clauses. I am most passionate about Clause 9: Government will be assessed above all on how it treats its child. The child in care.”

Mary Branson was equally passionate about her work and what it portrays.

“There are 21 ladders altogether; they climb to the gallery, inviting you to look up, getting you to view the cathedral in a different way. I call myself a sight-responsive artist and I want people to look at these ladders, look up and feel positive about the future in these uncertain times.

“Ladders are a strong symbol for movement and connecting.”

Mary is particularly pleased that her installation has brought people together. “Each rung of the ladder is hand-made by a team of volunteers and friends, a mix of Remainers and Leavers. We all gathered together in a local village hall and created these ladders of hope.”

Clause 10 of Lemn Sissay’s poem Magniloquent Cartilage. Photo by Ash Mills

Both Lemn Sissay MBE and Mary Branson’splea for social change was inspiring. If everyone who visits the Cathedral over the coming months can take away a bit of that passion, the country will be on the way to a better place.

Among many achievements, Lemn was official poet for the London Olympics  and the 2015 FA Cup. He is Chancellor of The University of Manchester and Canterbury’s Poet Laureate.

Mary Branson is an award-winning print maker, choreographer, mentor and public speaker but is best known for her large-scale conceptual light sculptures and installations. She has produced the first contemporary art work for the Houses of Parliament, New Dawn, a contemporary light sculpture, celebrating Women’s Suffrage.

Ladders of Light – a new constitution for the UK, is curated by the Cathedral’s Visual Arts Adviser Jacquiline Creswell. The project was commissioned by Sky Arts as part of Art 50, an initiative to fund 50 new pieces of art across the country and from all disciplines exploring what it means to be British.

Ladders of Light… a new constitution for the UK

9am to 5pm until Wednesday April 3


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