Helter skelter ride launched inside Norwich Cathedral
A 55ft helter skelter has been built in Norwich Cathedral’s nave as the centrepiece of a project that aims to give people the chance to experience the Cathedral in an entirely new way and open up conversations about faith. Keith Morris reports.
The fairground ride was pronounced open this morning (August 8) as the Dean of Norwich, the Very Rev Jane Hedges was the first to take a ride, followed swiftly by a group of cathedral choristers in front of the massed media from across the UK and even the USA.
Visitors climbing up to have a go on the ride (£2 a time) will be treated to unique views of the Cathedral and its famous medieval roof bosses which tell stories from the Bible and form the largest collection of their kind in the world.
The project also offers visitors the opportunity to explore the other Seeing It Differently installations, including the chance to lie down and look up at the Cathedral’s incredible ceiling and roof bosses, take part in a trust trail in the Cloisters, and sit inside a Bible box and be completely surrounded by the word of God.
Seeing It Differently will run from August 8 to 18 and the project’s creator, Rev Canon Andy Bryant, Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care explained what it is all about.
“Along with experiencing all the other Seeing It Differently installations, we hope that climbing 40ft above the nave floor on the helter skelter will help people gain a new perspective on this ancient building and also appreciate the importance of seeing things differently – this building, ourselves and our faith.”
Andy was inspired to launch the project while admiring the roof of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, painted by Michelangelo. His first thought was a Ferris wheel to take people close to the roof bosses of Norwich Cathedral, but that proved impossible.
Andy acknowledged that not everyone thought it was a good idea but the overwhelming majority of people supported it.
“The cathedral is about the whole of life," he said. "We celebrate very solemn things here, we have some very heartbreaking things that happen here, isn't it also appropriate to celebrate another aspect of life which is fun and our enjoyment."
The cathedral’s regular rhythm of worship will continue as normal during the project and the cost of hiring the fairground ride will be covered by the revenue from rides and some grant funding.
Dean Jane said: “The amazing Medieval roof bosses tell the complete story of salvation from creation to the fall, the Old Testament, then the birth of Jesus and his death and resurrection. So it is a great opportunity for us to engage people with the stories of the Bible and then to get people to see how those stories might impact on their lives and how they might see life differently.
“Hopefully it will bring people into the cathedral who would not otherwise have dreamt of crossing our threshold.”
The installation also links into the project to bring Dippy the Dinosaur to Norwich Cathedral for four months next summer.
“Dippy will be an amazing opportunity for us to engage with the science community and address some of the really big issues that face the human race as we look to the future,” said Dean Jane. “Also for breaking down those barriers where people think science and faith clash. But they do not clash at all and by embracing science we can really show that our faith is relevant to everything and makes a difference to everything.”
Henry Chipperfield, from Irvin Leisure, which owns and installed the helter skelter, said: “Norwich Cathedral is definitely one of the most unusual place we have been to, even though we have taken it all over the world. As far as I know it is the first time a helter skelter has ever been in a cathedral.”
Entrance to the cathedral and exhibition is free (donations are welcome) and a ride on the helter skelter costs £2.
Opening times and more details at: www.cathedral.org.uk
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