To celebrate St Bede’s Day, the famous Northern saint who died on the 25th May 735AD, Durham Cathedral has launched a joint fundraising appeal with Seven Stories to share the joy of reading with young people from County Durham. 

For centuries, Durham Cathedral has been a place of inspiration, firing the imagination of artists and authors, and lifting the minds and hearts of pilgrims and visitors. This joint appeal will support the Cathedral’s ongoing work, encompassing education and conservation, whilst removing financial barriers preventing local young people from participating in a new, inspirational exhibition called ‘Shifter of Shapes exploring The Lost Spells with Red Fox’ at Seven Stories (launching beginning of July).  The exhibition is based around Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris’ book, ‘The Lost Spells’, a celebration of the natural world.

The appeal has a target of £4,000, and will subsidise places for 100 children to attend the exhibition, through a new #InspiringImaginations Fund at Seven Stories. It is organised by Durham Cathedral and will enable a number of schools in County Durham to apply for a grant towards the cost of a visit. Those attending will enjoy exclusive use of the gallery and learning space, and receive book tokens for pupils to spend in the Seven Stories shop, helping the reading continue at home.  Proceeds from the appeal will also contribute to the ongoing work of Durham Cathedral, ensuring it can continue to enthuse and educate.   

‘The Lost Spells’ is a hymn to creation, which in the words of its publisher Hamish Hamilton, “summons back what is often lost from sight and care, teaching the names of everyday species, and inspiring its readers to attention, love and care”. Using the Old English meaning, ‘spell’ refers to a narrative or an instructive talk, with the ‘Godspell’ or gospel, the greatest of all. Both the evocative language and the beautiful artwork of this book combine, in Anglo Saxon terms, a captivating ‘spell-boda’ or like the Northern Saints, a bearer of stories about the natural world. The 8th-century Bede wrote on many issues of the cosmos and the natural world, in particular in his book ‘On the Nature of Things’. St Cuthbert is regarded as the first environmentalist, introducing bird protection laws to the Northumbrian island of Lindisfarne in the 7th century.  

The Very Reverend Andrew Tremlett, Dean of Durham, said, “The Covid-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges to children’s education. I am delighted the Cathedral is working in partnership with Seven Stories in this way to share the joy of reading and its lifelong benefits. The appeal is a celebration of learning and storytelling, and will help improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people from this area.”

Mairi Kidd, Chief Executive Officer at Seven Stories, said, “We firmly believe in the power of books to conjure a sense of wonder and wellbeing among children and young people.  Durham Cathedral is a place that always inspires and we are delighted that the Cathedral has chosen to work with us to help extend the life-long benefits of reading to children and young people from across County Durham through the #InspiringImaginations Fund.  We hope to bring as many young people as we can to experience the wonderful Lost Spells book in the Shifter of Shapes exhibition and to be inspired and uplifted in this period of healing and regrowth.”

To support the campaign, please visit https://localgiving.org/charity/durhamcathedral/project/inspiringimaginations/The appeal can be followed and shared on social media using #InspiringImaginations.

To discuss making a major gift, please contact Durham Cathedral’s Relationship and Development Manager matthew.mills@durhamcathedral.co.uk