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Normally you’d expect a pair with the names ‘Luke and Leah’ to be seen around planets in a galaxy far, far away ... but yesterday they teamed up a bit closer to home; in Earth’s orbit and inside Lancaster Priory!

This was no Star Wars reunion however (the different spelling of Leia is the first clue about that)!

Instead, it was the Vicar of Lancaster, Rev Leah Vasey-Saunders alongside well-known artist Luke Jerram, who were launching a major new ‘Festival of the Earth’ together at the Priory.

Rev Leah hopes the Festival ‘will remind people that we are part of a story that is bigger than our own: God’s story’. 

Central to the festival is a spectacular new Earth artwork named Gaia; a huge and stunning seven-metre-wide globe featuring complete, detailed NASA imagery of the earth’s surface.

Gaia has been created by Luke, the artist behind the ‘Museum of the Moon’, which visited the Priory in 2019 and was seen by 30,000 people. Even more people than in 2019 are expected this time round at the Priory.

The word ’Gaia’ means the personification of the Earth, according to Greek mythology.

And at special launch event for the Festival this week, artist Luke ‘Zoomed’ in; not by X-Wing of course, but on a laptop live from Germany. He took questions from those attending the launch.

Gaia will be revolving from the Priory’s rafters until July 17, accompanied by events on the themes of community, nature, sustainability and home; some of which are ticketed. Tickets for evening events range from £5-£16. For more information and to book visit: lancasterpriory.org/gaia

The first Friday night event is tonight at 7.30pm - a pub quiz with quizmaster, Kriss Foster and tomorrow, from 11.15am, stalls and stands from local groups signposting to events within the community will be outside the church, while inside, at 7.30pm, Priory organist, Ian Pattinson, will perform an ‘Odyssey Into Space’.

Musical performances, lectures, yoga, tai chi and Qigong sessions are just some of the other events taking place under the Earth sculpture during its stay.

Other highlights will be the Blue Moon Band (July 1); a Night at the Opera (July 8) and The King’s Men choral scholars from King’s College, Cambridge (July 16).

These events are supported by Lancaster BID; Oglethorpe, Sturton and Gillibrand; Mazuma and ICT Reverse and the Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent Fund.

To complement Gaia, in St Nicholas Chapel at the Priory, there’s the premiere of ‘Four Rivers’, an audio and film experience, reflecting the sounds of Morecambe Bay produced by Syrian artist and Lancaster University student, Aous Hamoud; while the Regimental Chapel will be set aside for prayer and spiritual activities.

Although Gaia provides an earth view on a macro scale, Four Rivers invites audiences to take a micro view of the world through intimate detail of the sands and tides as they shift in and out of the Bay.

Commenting on the whole Festival, Rev. Leah Vasey-Saunders said today: “This exhibition enables us to reach people across the city and county through four weekly themes for our Festival of the Earth.

“Gaia gives us a fresh perspective on our planet and on its people. The events and themes we have developed allow people to engage and reflect in a wide range of ways.

“It is our hope that visitors will find themselves inspired not just to look upon a spectacular piece of art, but also to reflect upon the world in which we live, the way we live in it, the people we share it with and of course the deep spiritual questions of our existence.

“It is my hope that every visit to Lancaster Priory during this Festival month inspires a sense of awe and reminds people that we are part of a story that is bigger than our own: God’s story.”

Captions for the above photos:  

Credits: Pictures A and B by Ronnie Semley; Pic C by Darren Andrews 

Pic A: Rev Leah Vasey-Saunders with the Gaia Earth artwork in Lancaster Priory 

Pic B: Rev Leah Vasey-Saunders and artist Luke Jerram on laptop, look and point upwards at the Gaia Earth artwork in Lancaster Priory at the Festival launch event 

Pic C: The Gaia Earth artwork by Luke Jerram dominates the centre of Lancaster Priory