Banbury church marks 200th anniversary with launch of arts festival

A Banbury church is celebrating its 200th anniversary with the launch of an arts festival set to start in the spring.

By Matt Elofson
Friday, 28th January 2022, 4:58 pm
A multi-month arts festival is set to launch in the spring to celebrate the 200th anniversary for St Mary's Church in the town centre of Banbury
A multi-month arts festival is set to launch in the spring to celebrate the 200th anniversary for St Mary's Church in the town centre of Banbury

The festival, which is called Festival 200 starts in April and has events planned over a six-month period though October.

Rev Sarah Bourne, the chaplain for the arts at St Mary's Church Banbury, who has organised the arts festival, said: "This iconic building is for all to treasure and enjoy, whether people of faith or those of none. The festival celebrates 200 since Banbury's grade I listed church was pronounced complete in its re-built classical style on 25th October 1822.

"The opportunity to mark this anniversary seems even more important after the extraordinary challenges of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. St Mary's had to cancel most event bookings and many services for a number of months.

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Rev Sarah Bourne, a chaplain for the arts, holds the brochure for the upcoming arts festival marking the 200th anniversary of St Mary's Banbury

"It's really how we can use the arts to engage the community. Arts at Banbury St Mary's is our new initiative to bring our community closer together.

"Now we want to enjoy the opportunity to meet in person again in this wonderful space and to celebrate all that the community of Banbury has to offer."

There are free paper copies of the festival brochure available inside St Mary's Church located in Horse Fair of the town centre, as well as other public places around town like Banbury Town Hall.

Many of the festival's events are free with donations encouraged, with the exception of the concerts, which are ticketed events.

The inside of St Mary's Church in the town centre of Banbury (Submitted photo from the church)

For more information on the festival, including how to book your place at the events see its website here:

The festival includes a variety music concerts, including its opening event from the Banbury Choral Society, celebrating its 80th year of performing concerts. The Banbury Choral Society will perform JS Bach's St John Passion at St Mary's Church on Saturday April 2.

One of the themes of the arts festival is a focus on wellbeing.

The festival includes a wellbeing in agriculture seminar with guest speaker Alasdair Lowe, who is a volunteer with the Farming Community Network (FCN) and a trustee of the Warriner School Farm at Bloxham. The seminar will be held on Saturday June 18 at the church.

Part of the beautifully decorated ceiling inside St Mary's Church Banbury

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The festival also offers a variety of art workshops from calligraphy, to ceramics to creating icons. All the art workshops will be led by A-level art students from Tudor Hall School, along with the school's head of art.

The festival will also offer a series of 'meet the author' events.

Sarah added: "It's a pleasant hour to learn about somebody else's writing, and meet a local author in an informal setting."

But celebrating the church's anniversary wasn't the only reason for hosting the arts festival.

Sarah said: "It's also to hopefully attract people who are not of any faith to come into this wonderful building, and perhaps discover a creativity within themselves.

"Another reason for the festival is this church is in serious financial difficulty, and we're hoping to raise money for the church during the festival."