From Wuppertal 1934 to Chichester 2019

140201 Abschied Frayling15 mittelCoburg Conference – George Bell House – Chichester – February 2014 – Dean Nicholas Frayling (far left) – Canon Tim Schofield (far right) – Dr Dorothea Greiner (third from right)

The end of May 2019 will mark the 85th anniversary of the Barmen Declaration, which expressed the commitment of a small but determined group of Lutheran pastors to oppose the rise of Hitler and the National Socialists. Meeting in the Gemarke Church, Wuppertal-Barmen, more than 130 delegates including pastors, committed Christians and theologians, issued a six-part declaration opposing mainstream German Christian acceptance of national socialism. A full account of the historic 1934 Barmen Declaration can be found on the website of the Lutheran evangelist EKD church.

Half a century later, in October 1984, an ecumenical conference in Chichester brought together German church leaders from both the FRG and GDR. Alongside Anglican theologians, they gathered to discuss practical aspects of rapprochement and Christian unity. The event also celebrated the lives and work of Bishop George Bell and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The latter had been ministering to German-speaking congregations in London at the time of the Barmen Declaration, before returning to Germany in 1935.

The 1984 Chichester conference prepared the way for the first of the Coburg conferences in 1985, which has since been established as a rolling biennial series of ecumenical conferences hosted in rotation by three German churches and the diocese of Chichester. A process that started in the wake of the 500th anniversary celebrations of Martin Luther’s birth, generated both ecumenical conferences and the 1987 Meissen Statement, a six-article road map for Christian unity.

The first article opens with the words: “God’s plan … is to reconcile all things in Christ…” and the second article discusses the nature of communion. The third article is a call for unity: “…to fulfil its mission the Church itself must be united.” The fourth article talks about communion as a shared act of faith, while the fifth article records a number of points of agreement and the sixth sets out the next steps for mutual acknowledgement.

The final paragraph concludes with the words: “We know that beyond this commitment lies a move from recognition to the reconciliation of churches and ministries within the wider fellowship of the universal Church.”

This autumn will see Chichester hosting the next Coburg conference.  At the time of writing, Chichester cathedral’s European ecumenical committee had this to say about the Coburg conferences:

“The first ecumenical conference held in Chichester in 1984 to celebrate Bishop George Bell proved so valuable that the regular ‘Coburg conferences’ were born. Held every other year, delegates from the Diocese of Chichester, the Evangelical Kirchenkreis Bayreuth, the Lutheran church in Berlin-Brandenburg, and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bamberg meet for discussions, lectures and workshops on a variety of topics and current issues. It is an opportunity to share and solve problems together and exchange news of parish links. A very strong bond of support, fellowship and understanding has developed.”

In his 2018 Easter sermon, Bishop Martin Warner talked of his conference trip to Germany in 2017, when the Lutherans were celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran reformation. His visit was preceded by (Re)imagining Europe, a conference held in Rome and organised by churches across the EU. Bishop Martin observed: “They were drawing from a vision that was formed at the very moment when Europe was descending into the second world war, indeed when Bishop George Bell was seeking to support Christians who were separated from us by that conflict, but not in faith.”

The 2019 Chichester leg of the Coburg Conferences programme will open on October 10 and run until October 14.

Here is more information when the Conference was last held in Chichester in 2011.

08 Peter Billingham: the Drama of Faith

I’m Peter Billingham.  I’m professor of Drama and Performance at the University of Winchester.  I have written plays which received professional production.  I’ve lived a full and creative life in an important area for all humans.  Bishop Bell thought that too.

I quote from one of Shakespeare’s villains – I hope Chichester Observer might use it.

“Good name in man and woman dear my Lord is my immediate jewel of my soul.
Tis something nothing.

But he that filches from me my good name.

Robs me of that which not enriches him.

And makes me poor indeed.”

My short talk is about his commitment to drama and professional theatre.  The two were inseparable.  I will refer to his founding of RADIUS – the religious drama society of Great Britain.

RADIUS promotes drama to this day.  Most RADIUS members such as TS Eliot believed all creative work is an extension of divine creativity.  Bishop Bell and TS Eliot feel the world needs good drama that makes us think and challenges us.  Not drama as a form of propaganda, even if it is something you believe in.

They were motivated by drama that can talk to the widest audience.  RADIUS continues today on diminished resourcing. It was established during the war at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden.  Dame Judy Dench is one of the organisation’s patrons and started her acting career in 1951.  The mystery plays have been performed on an annual basis ever since.

I will introduce a timeline to share my thoughts on Bishop Bell.  It was in 1930 that Bishop Bell initiated the founding of RADIUS.  He appointed Elliott Martin Brown.  Brown had read theology.  He was married to an actress.  With his wife, he was active in a very good community theatre festival in Angmering.  He and TS Eliot made regular visits to that festival.  It brought together actors and normal citizens.

In 1935 TS Eliot accepted a commission from Bishop Bell to direct a play.  It would be presented at Canterbury Cathedral.  It was directed by Elliott Martin Brown.  He directed the premieres of all of his work.

The background of the commissioning of “Murder in the Cathedral” was this. Bishop Bell asked Martin Brown, along with TS Eliot if they would produce a poetic drama called “The Rock” which was performed at Sadlers Wells.  It had a non-professional cast.  It also had famous actors in the key roles.  This project made a large amount of money for the time – £800.  The money went into promoting drama and the work of RADIUS.

The production of “Murder in the Cathedral” played at Canterbury for a year.  In 1938 it went to America and played off Broadway. There probably wasn’t the same audience in New York for  Eliot’s account of this English Bishop. Martin Brown referred to the Bishop as the tiresome priest.  “Who should rid me of this turbulent priest?”

Brown succeeded Bishop Bell and in March 1939 put on Family Union. With his company, the Pilgrim Players, he took drama to areas which had not seen performances before.  There were some fine actors who had good careers.  TS Eliot was the standby of that company.  They also produced the work of James Bridie – a Scottish dramatist.  In the post war period, Martin Brown premiered Eliot’s “A Cocktail Party” in 1948.

Actor/director Wilfred Harrison wrote a play [title unclear on transcript] that takes as its premise the decline of Christianity in the 20th century – becoming Carpet Warehouses etc.  The sense of a faith and tradition in critical decline.  That decline has not halted.

Harrison wrote this play for performance in a church.  He took the premise that the church isn’t paying its way.  Should it be wound up?  The church drama group comes to the meeting to say they have been exploring the relationship between Bonhoeffer’s world.  They decided to have a play where we meet characters from the past.

It contains a short speech from the play from Bonhoeffer that paraphrases Bonhoeffer’s writing.  We are coming towards the end of the play.  There has been a debate of the sort that would have excited and pleased Bishop Bell.

There is a character called Marsh. He was the founder of the theatre group.  He adopted the role of Bonhoeffer of the play within the play.  They would be pleasing to Bishop Bell.

They have decided they can’t go on with the play within the play.  Marsh says “I knew if my end was to come in a few months I would preach theology.  We are all bearers of God’s mandates, especially those for which we have responsibilities.  Mine is to witness the presence of God in the world.  The God that can get us out of trouble.  God help us with our own effort.  The powerless God who knew all that we suffer, we must know ourselves.  By forsaking us, God helped us. ”

That play was commissioned within a context of a historical trend in the 20th Century that Bishop Bell initiated.  We can only hope his name will be returned to his proper and much respected place.

I was saddened after the beginning of today’s event.  I had hoped the Bishop would be prepared to say something concrete and positive.  Like many of you thought, that was not the case.  Long may drama and theatre continue and so may we until there is a time to celebrate.

Bishop Bell and the nuclear threat

True to form, Bishop George Bell was as strongly opposed to nuclear weapons as he was to any other form of targeting civilians. It was just never accorded the same prominence as his views on the bombing of Dresden, which ruffled establishment feathers longer and harder. Peter Walker, later to become the Bishop of Ely, knew Bell at the time and later wrote an account of Bishop Bell’s views on the subject, which appeared in 1986. Click the image to download a copy. (9MB)

12 Conclusions

This narrative is based on the record of an electronic note taker (ENT) hired to provide deaf attendees with a rendering of what people said in real time. It is a phonetic account, first and foremost, taken down in the heat of the moment. An echo of what was said rather than a reflection of what might have been written before or since.

Sandra Saer: My mother was extraordinary. One of her many sayings was: ‘Patience and perseverance made a bishop of His Reverence’.

.I don’t have a lot to say. It has all been said. We have taken a dramatic step forward by what has been said and how we have been ignited by what has been said. That process will go on. I have another saying – We are not here for whom the bell tolls, we are here for whom the bell chimes.

I would like to thank everybody here. We have lost some people. For coming here and taking part in an amazing day of talks and discussions and chats over meals. I would like to thank you all very much. I want to thank Paula and Natasha. These are our word people. They are notetakers and have done an amazing job. They will let Richard have what they have done. If you visit the rebuilding bridges website, you will find all the proceedings of this event. I think that will probably astonish you. You sometimes cannot take everything in.

I think I have said enough.

New speaker: What happens with those resolutions now?

Sandra Saer: They go into the proceedings.

Richard: I will open this to how to proceed next. I’m not sure.

Gavin Ashenden: I’m a hard-bitten churchman. I don’t think much more can be achieved within the Church of England. Neither the Archbishop nor the Bishop of Chichester will go further than they have gone. This meeting might want to give some thought to whether we step up the campaign to make it more public. Charles Moore and Peter Hitchens are allies.

There are procedural mechanisms. You can take a petition to Parliament if you can get 10,000 votes. I would like to suggest that we find some form of words that would attract wider support than just us. If we get help from Charles and Peter that will be in a public forum. I can’t think what else to do.

New speaker: Peter Hitchens is working on a campaign to not legalise cannabis.

Gavin Ashenden: I’m sure he can manage 2 causes at once.

New speaker: What about renaming this house?

Gavin Ashenden: Anglicans can threaten to stop paying money. If you have support in the congregation you can suggest you feel so strongly about this. They may suffer a legacy of deprivation. They will take that seriously. The other is you withdraw yourselves. Some people have done that. That don’t like that at all. They are both serious. You have to decide if you feel seriously about it.

New speaker: These resolutions will be forwarded?

Gavin Ashenden: If you don’t have a sanction, people will ignore you. Should they not have the impact you envisage you might want to consider something else.

Richard: There is a practical way forward with the General Synod. The meeting later this month will be important. They need to see … I think we can do a lot in bringing the issue to people’s attention by going to the Synod’s representation. The 7th February is the deadline for people to make their proposals to the General Synod. I’m struggling to think of practical ways to do so. I sense if we want to do something now we need to really push our Synod representatives. Each one.

I know you might have a different view Gavin. I’m trying to … it seems such a big thing to somehow change this whole attitude and bureaucracy in the Church of England. Martin Sewell and David Lamming have produced this proposal. They need to get 100 signatures and are struggling. They need it within a few weeks. If we can all write to our General Synod representatives that will get through somehow. Then more practical action might be able to take place.

I did a petition and got 2,000 signatures. That is one reason I’m here. It played a part but didn’t make an iota of difference. It did some good. I think maybe the next step together is to go to the General Synod representatives.

New speaker: Can we have the name and address of who to write to?

Richard: Martin sent me the link to names. There are no addresses or emails. I’m thinking that maybe with the chronology I can provide you with the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the representatives.

New speaker: Does that need to be done by 7th?

Richard: As soon as possible.

New speaker: Can it be care of or care of you?

New speaker: The Synod is our first port of call. The other approach must be via the IICSA. They are going to readdress the issues.

New speaker: May we thank our chairperson and to Richard for organising it.

Gavin Ashenden: Hip hip hooray! (three cheers from everyone present)

Let’s pray.

Father, we thank you for the gift of this day and bringing people together and the opportunity to speak out. We pray for wisdom, more courage and endurance. We ask your will be done and kingdom come. May the spirit be on your homes. Amen.


09 Marilyn Billingham: Bishop Bell and Gustav Holst

The Whitsuntide Festivals 1916 – 1934

This presentation, part of a wider study, foregrounds the respectful and deep friendship that developed between the Gustav Holst and George Bell which stemmed from their professional collaboration in Holst’s Whitsuntide Festivals. The first festival took place in 1916 when Holst brought together his very different choirs from St Paul’s Girls’ School, Hammersmith and the choir from the Morley College for Working Men and Women in Waterloo Road. With just the two exceptions of Whitsun 1919 and 1929 such events were held annually until 1934 the year Holst died. In 1928 the festivities took place at Canterbury Cathedral when George Bell was the Dean and from 1930 – 34 in Chichester. The final weekends were based in Bosham.

Gustav Holst (1874 – 1934), and his daughter Imogen were committed to bringing music to ALL people. They were nothing if not inclusive. In this commitment Gustav was heavily influenced by connections with his near contemporaries William Morris and George Bernard Shaw and of course his very close friend and colleague (Rafe) Ralph Vaughan Williams. Holst had known financial hardship in his own family. His father had to borrow in order for Gustav to study at the RCM and in order to save money he walked from Cheltenham to London to take up his place.

Soon after moving to London, in 1893 when he enrolled as a student at the Royal College of Music Holst became an active member of the Hammersmith Socialist Club which met at Kelmscott house, the London home of the Morris’s and where George Bernard Shaw and other socialist luminaries would regularly meet, socialise and lecture. Very quickly he became an active member of the society and in 1897 became conductor of the pre-existing Hammersmith Socialist Choir. Fiona McCarthy in her excellent biography of Morris briefly refers to Holst as often seen in Hammersmith ‘’on the official socialist cart playing a harmonium.” There was a tradition of choral singing in the socialist movement of the time, socialist choirs were not unusual, and for the retiring and rather self – effacing Holst this seemed to be his way of making a contribution to the socialist cause.

In his personal and professional life however, a living had to made and following the resignation of Vaughan Williams from the Passmore Edwards Settlement in 1904 Holst accepted the post of Musical Director. The Passmore Edwards was founded in 1880. It was modelled on the probably more famous Whitechapel settlement Toynbee Hall and largely run, like Toynbee Hall, by young people from the ancient universities and public schools to provide education and support for the local working class families.

In 1907, the year Imogen was born, he was appointed Musical Director at the Morley College for Working Men and Women, which still thrives at their college on Westminster Bridge Road, but was then based in rooms at the Old Vic under the auspices of Lillian Baylis, its founder, who also had an overwhelming and in her case rather eccentric commitment to a practical Christian socialism. Imogen describes the time at Morley as bringing ‘incalculable joy’ to her father, though most of the evening class students were quite untrained. She goes on to say that when new members of the choir were asked ‘Do you know your notes?’ the most usual reply was ‘well some of them’. But Holst taught them the basic rudiments of music, skills for composition and the opportunity to perform to the highest standards. Their programmes included what is claimed to be the first public performance of Purcell’s Fairy Queen since the time of Purcell himself. They sang Bach cantatas, the polyphonic music of Byrd, Vittoria and Wheelkes and Tallis and music written specifically for them by his friend Ralph Vaughan Williams and of course the rounds and folk song arrangements for which Holst is so well known.

In the mean time Holst had been appointed Director of Music at St. Paul’s Girls’ School in Hammersmith. A post he held from 1906 until his death in 1934. With our twenty and twenty first century sensitivities there might seem to be a contradiction between his commitment to open access to education and the arts and his role at St Paul’s but of course at the time opportunities to teach as a music specialist in schools were restricted to provision in the independent and privileged sector. The elementary ‘all through’ schools had no specialists at all. Further an academic education for girls was itself still very new. The Girls’ Public Day School Trust was in its earliest years, established in 1887 and St Paul’s itself opened in 1902 only 4 years before his appointment in 1906. Perhaps this was sufficient for Holst to feel that he was contributing to progressive social change. Furthermore of course he had a family to keep. All that aside his new full time post did not stop him continuing at Morley and taking his ‘Can’t Sing Choir’ to the slums in the East End of London. (The Can’t Sing Choir still exists at Morley – and very quickly its members discover that in fact they can!)

Probably the next most significant decision of the Holsts, as it relates to this project is the decision to establish their family home in Thaxted Essex which led to his close collaboration with its Anglo-Catholic Socialist Vicar Conrad Noel known as the ‘Red Vicar of Thaxted’. He is famous in particular for displaying in Church along side the St George’s flag, the red flag and from time to time the flag of Sinn Fein.

The Holsts moved to Thaxted in 1913 and stayed until 1925. Holst and Conrad Noel quickly became firm friends. The vicar and his wife were closely identified with the arts and crafts movement and committed to the promotion of folk traditions in dance and music for their own sake and as a way to counter what they saw as the negative and alienating impact of industrialisation and mass production. The Noels had close links with Cecil Sharpe and incorporated dancing and procession into the life of the village and the liturgy of the parish church drawing in large numbers of Thaxted people. It is easy to see how Holst and actually his daughter Imogen who became a very active member of the English Folk Song and Dance Society felt they could contribute to the cultural life of the village.

Holst soon began assisting with music at the church training the choir and acting as assistant organist. He supported Noel in the transformation of liturgy extending the musical repertoire, including folk song based ceremony and procession into Thaxted worship. Holst very soon began to include Morelyites (as they were affectionately known) into the Thaxted musical scene and before long was discussing with Noel the possibility of developing this collaboration further and to institute an annual music festival in the village. This was realised in 1916 when Holst brought together his very different choirs from St Paul’s Girls’ School, Hammersmith and from the Morley College for Working People south of the river to join the Thaxted musicians for a 4 day festival of music over the Whitsun bank holiday weekend. Writing to his friend Ralph Vaughan Williams he reported
“There were about 15 Morleyites and lO St. Paul’s girls (Paulinas), 10 outsiders and 10 Thaxted singers. The latter did grandly. Most of them work in a factory here and I have been asked to give them quicker music next year. It seems that they sang all day every day at their work for several months and the slow notes of the Bach chorales seriously affected their output. ”
The repertoire included
Bach Short Mass No. 2 in A
Two Bach cantatas Sleepers Awake and Soul, Array Thyself
Numbers of 16th and 17th century motets
S Wesley’s Sing aloud
Extracts from Purcell’s Fairy Queen and King Arthur
And that was just some of the formally prepared music. There were rounds and part songs accompanied by violins, piano and penny whistles, folk songs and Morris dancing, a melo-drama in the barn and so it went on…..making merry 14 hours a day.

It is worth noting that among the many pieces Holst wrote for the Whitsuntide Singers was his famous setting of the Cornish carol Tomorrow shall be my Dancing Day under the title This have I done for my true love. He dedicated this to Conrad Noel and it is commemorated on one of the Thaxted bells with the inscription ‘I ring for the general dance’

Holst had been turned down for military service on health grounds. He was seriously short sighted, he had developed neuritis in his left hand and was asthmatic. He never had a strong constitution and died of heart failure following surgery when just 59. There were only two more Whitsun Festivals in Thaxted in 1917 and 1918 It is not quite clear what caused the difficulties. Certainly Conrad Noel was a charismatic figure, single minded and politically uncompromising. It is suggested that the High Mistress at St Paul’s didn’t think this was quite the thing for her girls. It seems too that Noel publically admonished the musicians for not taking the political aspects of the festivals sufficiently to heart. There was no similar festival in 1919 whilst Gustav was working for the YMCA in Constantinople and in 1920 the Festival was held at Dulwich College. Following this there was a festival each year in various parish churches and schools in London until 1927. This is when George Bell, then Dean of Canterbury became involved. He became host and patron to the 1928 festival which took place in Canterbury Cathedral

In October 1927 Gustav received an invitation from the then Dean of Canterbury, one George Kennedy Allen Bell to write incidental music for a play to be written by John Masefield and to be directed by Charles Rickets. This was a radical proposal at the time, for although church dramas had been common place in the middle ages, probably most famously those we know now as the mystery plays, the practice had fallen out of favour. Plans for this production to be called The Coming of Christ, were submitted for the approval of the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, his consent was given on the condition that the figure of Christ should not be portrayed to the audience. A challenge, given the title of the play, and as far as I can see a request barely honoured. There were significant problems raised by the organist and choir master at Canterbury which threatened the whole project and many more from fundamentalist Christians which actually didn’t seem to threaten anything. Holst brought his musicians from St Paul’s and Morley who formed the chorus and the collective role of Heavenly Host and the five performances, presented as an act of worship, were attended by some 6,000 people. A retiring collection raised approximately £800, a considerable sum in 1928, of which a substantial proportion was set aside to commission new plays. The first of which according to Michael Short, Holst’s biographer was T.S Elliot’s Murder in the Cathedral.

It is probably fair to say that The Coming of Christ played to mixed reviews but was an exhilarating experience for the performers. Not to mention a historic event which fundamentally transformed the place of drama in the church. This was the most elaborate Whitsun Festival that Holst’s singers had ever attempted and breathed new life into the future festival plans.

It is worth noting here that the colourful costumes were made under the direction of Henrietta Bell. In gratitude for this and for the hospitality of the Bells at Canterbury Holst wrote two rounds which the choir sang in the Deanery garden. The rounds were entitled To Bother Missus Bell and more seriously and with heartfelt thankfulness Within this Place All Beauty Dwells.

Despite the head of steam generated by the first performances and enthusiastic plans to revive the play in 1929 there was no festival that year. A combination of factors contributed to this. George Bell was abroad; Holst during that year was for a considerable time in the USA; his successor as director of Music at Morley, Arnold Goldsburgh was about to resign and Jane Joseph his trusty former pupil and (aman-u-en-ses) amanuenses died. Further there was to be General election.

By 1930 George Bell was Bishop of Chichester and he and the then Dean, Arthur Duncan Jones wasted no time in inviting Holst to bring his next Whitsun Festival here.
Bishop Bell wrote
‘The Dean of Chichester and I are very anxious to persuade you to bring yourself and the Heavenly Host to Chichester Cathedral and Palace for Whitsuntide, 1930’.
Holst swiftly replied
‘Of course the Heavenly Host are longing to come.…though I do not see what a scratchload of amateurs as we are, could do that Dr Conway’s singers could not do infinitely better’.
(Marmaduke Conway was the organist and master of the choristers at this time.)

Duly the weekend festival was held in our cathedral. As usual the music included pieces by Holst’s favourite composers, Purcell, Bach, Byrd, Weelkes and Vittoria. The Whit Sunday evening performance was given by some 120 singers and players from St Paul’s and Morley and a similar number of local musicians including students from Bishop Otter College, now the University of Chichester, approx. 250 in all. On Whit Monday, Holst’s singers performed again for the morning service and in the afternoon sang madrigals in the Bishop’s garden. This was followed by country dancing with the West Sussex Folk Dancers.

At this 1930 Festival Bosham had obviously been discussed as a possible venue for a future festival and became the venue in 1931. Holst in the end, due to poor health, and very pressing composing commitments sadly was unable to direct the singing, Vally Lasker deputised. She had been a Morleyite and eventually became a teacher at St. Paul’s and Holst’s assistant. Later in that year, 1931 Holst brought his choirs to the Cathedral for the August Bank Holiday weekend to sing Vaughan Williams Mass in G Minor which had been dedicated to ‘Holst and his Whitsuntide singers’.
(Interestingly Arthur Robson’s choir The Chichester Chorale sang this setting at their Easter Concert in St George’s Whyke last year).

Holst was in America over the Whitsun weekend in 1932 where he was diagnosed with a duodenal ulcer. The Festival that year returned to Bosham and Chichester. He was able to attend but Vally Lasker conducted ‘Mr Holst’s Singers’. The following Whitsun in 1933 the Festival was again in Bosham and Chichester but Holst was too ill even to attend. In 1934 he was awaiting major surgery but notwithstanding he sent greetings to the Rev. Street, then vicar of Bosham and his Whitsuntide musicians
‘I wish you all Good Luck, Good weather, much playing and almost too much singing and many happy returns of the day (I mean days). And I wish myself the joy of your fellowship at Whitsun 1935’
– a wish to remain unfulfilled. He died on the 25th May 1934 and, as is well known to us all, his memorial service was held in the cathedral one month later – appropriately on 24th June, St. John the Baptist’s Day which is the patronal day of Thaxted Church where it had all begun. Vaughan Williams conducted the Whitsuntide Singers.

The Whitsun weekends continued after Holst’s death in the first instance at Bosham. Following the death of the Rev. Street in 1938 the festivities moved to Boxgrove Priory. The war inevitably interrupted the pattern but after the war the Chichester/Boxgrove weekends were resumed with a red letter day of Sunday 25th May 1947 when the Boxgrove Whit Sunday festival service was chosen to be the first ever broadcast of a Parish Church Communion on the wireless. The final Whitsuntide Festival was in 1958 by then many of the key figures had died and Vally Lasker was in her mid seventies and unable to continue. The Whitsun Festivals had been sustained with few interruptions for some 40 years.

I am interested in documenting the significance of the Whitsun Weekends particular focusing on
(i) the socio-historical context in which the two unlikely groups of students were brought together – Morley College and SPGS and
(ii) the repertoire used at these weekends
As important however is the contribution that this and other such projects of the early twentieth century made to extending access to the arts in education and elsewhere. A corner of our music history where the archival resources have not yet been fully documented or systematically explored.

07 Bishop Gavin Ashenden

This article is based on the record of an electronic note taker (ENT) hired to provide deaf attendees with a rendering of what people said in real time. It is a phonetic account, first and foremost, taken down in the heat of the moment. An echo of what was said rather than a reflection of what might have been written before or since.

Gavin Ashenden: I would like to begin with an anecdote. I was part of the Chapter when the first announcement was made. Like others, the decision was brought to us as if it were a matter of fact. So the Dean said; does anyone have any views? I did train in the law and that gave me a sense of its importance; I suggested we call the house Natural Justice!

Thank you for asking me to speak. If you are here today it’s because you are in no doubt that Bishop Bell is innocent. You’ll be familiar with the conclusion of Lord Carlile’s review and his frustrations. I was glad Bishop Martin took responsibility.

Many of us believe the terms of references stopped Lord Carlile saying Bishop Bell was innocent. I read a statement earlier on – ‘George Bell should be declared innocent’. Still the Archbishop of Canterbury is reluctant to accept the truth. Though his apology has lots of emotive words it came close to a ‘non-apology’ – sorry if you feel hurt by what I did. Welby apologised to the survivors and family – but that’s not an apology to Bishop Bell. When measuring the demands of truth on the ethical scale, it’s near the bottom. Victimhood is at the top. ‘We need to care for her’ – of course we do. No one has ever suggested that anyone who is a victim should experience anything but the utmost care. So why does it not care about Bishop Bell? Let us review how we got to this point.

The scales were weighted against Bishop Bell from the start. Why were the terms of reference not allowed to examine the cogency of Carol’s claim? You might be forgiven for thinking that though the Church was unwilling to look into these allegations more closely.

The response of the Church was to claim that there was further evidence to say Carol’s memories WERE concrete enough. But there was evidence to say that 70-year-old memories were too flimsy. So there was new information, but they wouldn’t tell us what it was. Everything hung upon the reliability of the further accusations. One side was… the other was that there were even more allegations. The safeguarding culture was choosing victimhood over truth. Safeguarding should protect everyone. One problem for the public is that it became impossible to hold the Church to account. Who has read the Briden report? I will add a couple of details. The Church knew the allegations did not bear the weight attributed to them. The most serious was from a man who said his mother had found Bishop Bell engaged in a sex act with another man. She had answered the phone and gone to find him. But cleaners never answered the phone – and he’d been dead 20 years at that time. So the accuser just changed the date.

Another allegation was from a reporter who had interviewed a psychiatric nurse who said she’d been abused by Bishop Bell as a child. Alison also accused Bishop Bell of interfering with her when she was sat on his knee. But she contradicted herself, and when asked if she had been touched in the crotch she said ‘maybe it was my tummy’. Hard not to touch a child on the tummy if they are sat on your lap.

Recall is an active mental process where memories become distorted with time. I had lunch with an old friend who studied law with me – she said I was the only one to get a first, but I didn’t!

Briden’s conclusion says; the allegations are all unfounded. Bishop Bell’s biographer claimed the Church had been caught up in self-justification and said it would maintain the views that got them into so much trouble in the first place. Chandler says the Church are trying to reclaim the narrative. ‘They have nothing to hide behind now – it is quite extraordinary – the various establishments invested so much in this and are unable to climb down. They need to think about how to regain trust’.

It’s part of a growing culture that threatens the freedom of speech. I could be here all day – but you’ll be aware of political correctness. When Marx tried to bring about a revolution, there were also Cultural Marxists who thought they’d have a go. Feminism has a benign side, but also a malign side where the idea is that you could construct your own gender – which led us to gay marriage. You may or may not be in favour of it – and then that led us to transsexualism. It’s all part of the subversion of Judeo-Christian culture. If you criticise this, you are committing political blasphemy. Those who have had power are old Christian white men. The victimhood – those without power – must have more power than those who had it. It’s not an excess of pastoral care. It’s begun to steal the heart of the Church. This is a new form of totalitarianism; if you speak out against it, you could be sacked. The real problem is that it attacks freedom of speech. Bishop Bell is famous for speaking out against totalitarianism, and here we are speaking out against them attacking him 70 years. I am suggesting this is unconsciously done – it’s more than a tragedy, close to blasphemy. All we can do is seek to articulate the process while offering as much pastoral care to anyone who has suffered, without compromising our values. We need to defend Bishop Bell and hold the Archbishop of Canterbury to account.

Sandra Saer: Any questions?

New speaker: Because we’re about to have lunch I don’t want to let this slip – earlier Martin Warner was put on the spot as to why these investigators couldn’t look at Carol’s allegations. His defence was that it would hurt Carol too much. If that’s correct, we need to look carefully at what he said and I want us to hold on to that.

Gavin Ashenden: I almost said; you brought it into the public process! Let’s say it really was mistaken identity which I think is very likely – I don’t disbelieve Carol but I don’t think she would have been able to recognise one from the other, similar uniforms were worn. It’s reprehensible to insist it was Bishop Bell and there is no way it can be anyone else. This is either through pride or the political agenda. But you’re right. He should be held to account.

New speaker: I would like to ask what you would like us to do about it. The majority of us are church members – do we mull it over, is there something we can do as individuals or as a group?

Gavin Ashenden: I worked at the University of Sussex for 25 years. They are further along the progressive road. I think we are culturally in the same place as Germany in 1932 – it’s harder to spot, they don’t wear brown shirts, but people like Germaine Greer are silenced and then you know there’s a problem with democracy. What was Bonhoeffer’s response? He decided to lose, and did lose. He decided to create a confessional church. I think there is scope to creating something similar and am talking to people who share my views. The first thing is to realise what is going on. Bishop Bell would be pleased to know we are looking at freedom of speech.

New speaker: I’m not taken in by this talk of victims. With John Smythe, the victims say the Archbishop of Canterbury knew him. We have to believe him because he says he’s innocent. It’s not balanced.

New speaker: Thank you for what you said and especially confronting politely Martin Warner earlier. There are concerns about the elevation of victimhood. I do think there are important strands in plurality which embrace gender which are important and will still contribute towards a more fair-minded society.

Sandra Saer: Thank you very much. Before you go, I want to make a cri de coeur. Especially Richard – he doesn’t like me saying what he’s done. He has gone to great deal of expense putting these conferences together. I wanted to ask if you would consider contributing, however small.

06 Geoffrey Boys: ‘Mistaken identity?’

This article is based on the record of an electronic note taker (ENT) hired to provide deaf attendees with a rendering of what people said in real time. It is a phonetic account, first and foremost, taken down in the heat of the moment. An echo of what was said rather than a reflection of what might have been written before or since.

Sandra Saer: Geoffrey would you like to speak?

Geoffrey Boys: Thank you. I have prepared 3 pages. Having listened to the discussions, I have decided to make 2 statements for you to chew over over lunch. They have considerable significance to today.

My title for today was “Mistaken Identity?” My alternative is “Briden?” I’m here today as I gave evidence to Lord Carlile on January 24th 2018 of the possible misidentity of the Bishop. I thought my evidence might be relevant but I was uncertain as to who to tell. I believe mistakes were made by the Church as they failed to look far enough into the information which is now online.

Carol’s identity remains unknown. However, we can identify the house where she stayed and the name of her relative. Knowing her name others may have been able to contribute. I have met a centenarian who knows the relative of Carol when she made the allegations.

I gave evidence to Lord Carlile. I gave evidence to Briden anonymously. It is hard to keep this information anonymous. If you search on the web, you can find the information.

My evidence was received by Lord Carlile on 24th January 2018. I do not think it a coincidence there was a meeting on 29th January and it was announced on 31st January the Church had received more information and there would be a further enquiry.

When I was interviewed on May 29th I was the first witness. I am identified as witness A.

It starts on 12th February. A retired member of the clergy wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury suggesting there might have been another member of the clergy who could have perpetrated the abuse alleged by Carol. He said Mr Boys has come forward to make a similar allegation.

With regards to both of these episodes, I have decided the allegations against Bishop Bell have not been laid out. It is therefore not necessary for me to investigate other suggestions.
From Witnesses A and D that there might be another member of the clergy, there was no evidence that this was so. The question therefore remains unsolved.

From Witnesses A and D that there might be another member of the clergy, there was no evidence that this was so. The question therefore remains unsolved.

Sandra Saer: Any questions?

New speaker: Why did the lady keep quiet for so long?

Geoffrey Boys: In the Lord Carlile report we are only told about the lady.

New speaker: I’m unclear if your studies and research are able to be in the public domain? It sounds like it is tucked away in your archives.

Geoffrey Boys: That is certainly so. Tucked away in my archives, particularly what I said to Ray Galloway. The further information I offered to Ray was just after he submitted his report. What I have read to you today is in the public arena, particularly using search engines on the web.

Sandra Saer: The George Bell Group have something on their website about mistaken identity. Some of you are members of that group. There is information on who might have been responsible – someone who is not Bishop Bell.

Geoffrey Boys: Academics wrote about this some time ago. There is also recent information online,

New speaker: Is anyone acting on that? Are the Church investigating?

Geoffrey Boys: We were told in the Lord Carlile and Briden reports it was not within their terms of reference.

Sandra Saer: The Bishop commissioned the Briden report. How can he disassociate himself?

Geoffrey Boys: The first investigation with the Briden report was about the question I raised.

New speaker: How can this be taken forward?

Sandra Saer: We have the Briden report that states Bishop Bell was innocent.

New speaker: Are the IICSA looking into the Church of England again? Can we submit it to them?

Geoffrey Boys: I approached Lord Carlile in January and then later they arranged for Briden to talk to me. Another bit of significant information, when I first put my question to Lord Carlile he said there was no truth in it. No truth in my allegation about what I believed happened.

Sandra Saer: You knew other people too who knew about this.

Richard: The Karmi report has relevance. It is next door. That is a way to go into it further. There is a lot of information already which gives more of an insight into who the perpetrator might be.

Geoffrey Boys: It might be more complicated than that. If I direct you to the Karmi report you won’t pick up the whole story. Where Carol stayed is in the public arena.

New speaker: Can we not know that? Where she stayed?

Geoffrey Boys: You have to put 2 and 2 together. Carol makes a statement in her evidence in the Lord Carlile report which says “I stayed at the house nearest to the palace”. Having established that, it was important to ask who lived there. It was occupied from the 1930s to the 1980s by the same person.

New speaker: Who?

Geoffrey Boys: The chauffeur – Mr Monk.

New speaker: Can I suggest … these matters are dealt with by journalists and historians etc. This is so long ago. Evidence is muddled. We cannot arrive at a final truth. I don’t think we should encourage the Church to say perhaps it was this or that. The Church needs to say what it did was wrong in the first place. I’m not saying there isn’t truth in these. It is important that you get to the truth. I don’t think it is helpful to go down these routes.

Geoffrey Boys: I’m not a historian. I have been reading what the historians have said. When I raised the question just over a year ago, I thought that is my job finished; I won’t say any more. I can’t let it go though.

Sandra Saer: Thank you very much indeed.

05 Christopher Hoare, for David Hopkinson

This article is based on the record of an electronic note taker (ENT) hired to provide deaf attendees with a rendering of what people said in real time. It is a phonetic account, first and foremost, taken down in the heat of the moment. An echo of what was said rather than a reflection of what might have been written before or since.

Sandra Saer: I will now ask Christopher Hoare to speak.

Christopher Hoare: I feel hesitant about addressing you, as you were expecting someone from the top of the tree, not a twig. Some of you know more about this topic than I do. David Hopkinson could not be with us today.

David served in the Navy and then became a clerk in the House of Commons: in 1962 he joined M&G until 1987. He was chair of Harrison and Crossfield, Wolverhampton Brewery, was on the Bank of England advisory committee, he advised on pension funds. He was always publicly minded and cultured. He advised the English Chamber Orchestra, he was governor of well-regarded public schools. He was a church commissioner in 1973. He was on our cathedral development trust, Brighton Pavilion etc. He is a generous donor for a wide number of causes.

He is a fellow of St Anne’s college Oxford, a CBE.

Bishop Bell officiated at David’s wedding. There is a picture of the occasion – Richard has put a copy of David’s book in the library. Bishop Bell remained a friend of the Hopkinsons. I was going to talk about his wartime exploits. I think that is irrelevant.

It was after Bishop Bell’s [?death?] that David was appointed. Bishop Bell visited almost every week when in the country. Mothers and the superior loved him.

The order had funds. I don’t know how many others laid claim to the vision of the house of contemplation. The greatest credit must be his.

There were fears about the longevity of the existing sisters. The building was blessed in 2008 when there were only four still living. All have now become angels. May they rest in their graves.

David said: “I have vested interest in the outcome of the change in name. I have instructed for £50,000 within my will to be given but this is dependent on the change in name. Given my age it needs to happen soon!”


04 Pam Dignum – cathedral guides

This article is based on the record of an electronic note taker (ENT) hired to provide deaf attendees with a rendering of what people said in real time. It is a phonetic account, first and foremost, taken down in the heat of the moment. An echo of what was said rather than a reflection of what might have been written before or since.

Pam Dignum: I have been a guide in the cathedral for 18 years. Attitudes to Bishop Bell have changed – when Colin trained me, we were told the proper terms of reverence for him, the things he had done that we take for granted, like arts festival. We learnt about his work with those in poverty in Britain, about his wartime experiences, and how he said war should be conducted on humane lines. We learnt about his post-war activities, the painter who called him ‘the finest man I have ever met’. He had the freedom of the city.

Colin, I was just praising you for your good training. Come 2008, Bishop Bell was given a much higher focus. There were, that year, an exhibition in the House of Lords, portraits which had been done, workshops for everyone in the education department; there was a study programme for the whole congregation, praised for its reach of theological depth. So the congregation was aware of what he had done. We guides gave one-hour tours on him alone. Bishop Bell felt responsible for everyone, not just the diocese. That’s a big indicator of the man. The guides stressed the importance of Bishop Bell in terms of exchanges with other countries and schools. This was a major feature of my time, and university students here re-enacted his speeches in the House of Lords. He was played by a woman.

In 2015, I was giving a tour and talking about Bishop Bell – the visitor’s officer took me to one side and told me not to mention Bishop Bell at all. My mouth dropped open. We thought this was an overreaction, but we had our instructions. We could recall the sufferings of the victim; a letter was sent to all guides, saying we must think about the abuse survivors. We said nothing until January when we were given new instructions. A letter came from the Dean and Chapter, telling us what to say: ‘It is no longer appropriate to speak of his achievements as though the allegation has not been made.’ The letter told us rather a lot. The first paragraph was about his achievements; the second was about settling a legal claim – ‘some have doubted the investigative process and wanted to look into it themselves… the importance of his work remains, but we recognise the likelihood of the same man who showed moral courage was also responsible for the abuse of a child… Chichester Cathedral is committed to listening to those who have been abused’. Then: ‘this text is intended to give you guidance, but if you prefer to leave Bishop Bell out of your tour, this is perfectly acceptable. If you decide not to, there is no shortage of material. If you do mention him, please be careful to convey the correct tone. 1 in 20 of visitors will have been abused.’

This was clear, indeed; what was the reaction? We did have a meeting with Anthony Cane, to whom we said; you can’t read three paragraphs out to visitors. We also disagreed about where this should be said. Ruth said in front of the memorial, but then said we could sit people down. I said that we needed a shorter version and to be able to mention him by the font. I wrote a short version.
‘Having mentioned Bishop Bell, I have to tell you what the cathedral wants you to know – he was accused of child abuse. The Church apologised, paid compensation, and shows sympathy. But many people feel this has not been proven.’

I felt that was justified. There is no way you can give a tour without mentioning the modern art for which he was the stimulus, or the work with Peace and Reconciliation, without mentioning Bishop Bell.

Some guides did omit him altogether. Another mentioned him without giving an apology and was reprimanded. Jeremy, I don’t know what you did. We are independent people, without a script. We don’t say the same thing. Some visitors knew about Bishop Bell and asked; others didn’t. With a mixed group with, say, two people from China, or a group with children, you have to think on your feet. The flowers under the memorial appeared quite quickly and were sometimes removed. Some had kind messages about him.

Ironically, I had some German exchange students on a tour who had booked their tour before the difficulties. I had a happy hour talking to them and there was a book by Bishop Bell in a display case outside the verger’s room. But references to Bishop Bell were removed from the training manual for new guides. We got a new, slimmer version. The guide book for sale in the shop had the word ‘likelihood’ in it. When we trained new guides, in January 2016 and January 2018 – what do you say to them when you want to talk about Bishop Bell? The head guide told the candidates; don’t mention Bishop Bell when you come to be assessed. I was asked to give a 45-minute talk on Bishop Bell after the training last year, though it wasn’t part of the training. There is plenty to find out if people want to.

There was no official guidebook in English – we must be the only cathedral in England without one. I’ve been told they are under the counter. That’s a loss of revenue as well. At the end of it – I can’t speak for all, but I think the older guides would like freedom to speak on Bishop Bell again. It could be that those have not mentioned him to date may feel free to do so. There is a danger of Bishop Bell being airbrushed out. A boy said to me recently Bishop Bell was a paedophile. What have these children picked up from the renaming of these buildings?

I am looking forward to a new guidebook and a restoration of Bishop Bell to his proper place.

In 2008, this book was on sale in the shop – it’s a plain notebook with his picture on the front and a list of his achievements inside, including some people may not know about, like speaking out against capital punishment [reads quote].

Sandra Saer: Is that still on sale?

Pam Dignum: No. Though it may have sold out. I also have the words of the German ambassador here; ‘he was an exceptional figure’.

Sandra Saer: Any questions?

New speaker: Thank you so much – so much hangs on this declaration of his innocence.

Pam Dignum: Lord Carlile and Briden have spoken, but we are still under the last instructions we had. It’s a matter of conscience.

New speaker: As a former guide, I took absolutely no notice whatsoever – but we must have a guidebook. It’s an embarrassment.

New speaker: I thought the remark about the schoolboy related what he believed – it’s such an important thing you have reminded us of. It is about continuing damage.

Pam Dignum: I think there are eight forms of entry in that school.

New speaker: Explicit lifting of the cloud – it’s to avoid this wrongdoing.

New speaker: Was the first intervention from the Bishop in 2015? It just seems at odds with his protestations earlier…

Pam Dignum: The Dean and the Bishop were seen as a team.

New speaker: It’s very important we get the guidebook, but how can we ensure it doesn’t use the same language that the Dean and Bishop are using? Will guides be able to see drafts?

Pam Dignum: I did write to the Bishop soon after we realised the guidebook said what we thought were the wrong words. I wrote a letter to two guides who had asked what we should say; ‘many objected to the guilt association. Some of us wrote to the Bishop, who said it was not his responsibility’. It was still on sale at the time. We made this clear to the chancellor. We think he was constrained in terms of what we could say. It was as though he was working under difficulties.

Sandra Saer: Could you remind us what was on page 37?

Pam Dignum: It was along the lines of what was said in 2015, about a man of great achievement…

Richard: The book is in the other room.

New speaker: It was a third of the page.

New speaker: It was an inset, in a different colour.

Pam Dignum: It was the ‘likelihood’ that people didn’t like. It didn’t doubt that he had done good things. It wasn’t what people came to the cathedral to hear about.

New speaker: I proofread the book and when this blew up we had to add the page in. I objected to it going in and to the wording. I said; I know the book has not been printed yet. But he went ahead. The Dean and Chapter then decided to pulp it.

New speaker: I can quote it…


‘Since October 2015, some aspects have been called into question… allegations are plausible… it now seems entirely possible that the same man who showed moral courage was also responsible for the abuse of a child’.

Sandra Saer: Thank you.

New speaker: Can I just ask ..? This gentleman raised an important point. I think we should develop that further. There was a contradiction between what the bishop said today.

Sandra Saer: You can ask that question?

Pam Dignum: I don’t mind asking anything providing I have a clear statement.

New speaker: Something to be directed to the bishop in person?

Sandra Saer: I’m not au fait with the dialogue of our church. The Bishop is the head of it. You cannot hide behind the Dean and Chapter.

New speaker: It seems to suggest he might issue instructions when it suits him.

New speaker: Part of the statement was issued by the Bishop.

New speaker: We need to remember there is always balanced authority in the church. The Bishop doesn’t have full authority over the Cathedral. There is a relationship between the Bishop and the parish. The Bishop cannot force entry. I think Bishop Martin doesn’t have the authority you feel he has.

Pam Dignum: The Bishop said he wasn’t responsible for the wording. Who wrote the text?

New speaker: Anthony Kane.

New speaker: Can I add a rider? What you say is right. I have been connected to the diocese and have known several Bishops and Deans. Both Deans and Chapters are subject to influence and pressure. If their congregations revolt … My concern is Bishop Martin doesn’t have the power but he does have the influence. He doesn’t have our convictions. He doesn’t share our convictions. We are seeking to change a climate of opinion. It will affect both Dean and Chapter. We should continue to do it.

Sandra Saer: Thank you Pam.

New speaker: Thank you for keeping the papers. They are very important.

Pam Dignum: I’m interested in record keeping. It is important to have a copy of what was being said. We are aware of subtle changes over time. As guides we have to keep within the limits set. We have to keep the tone right. There are other papers as well.

New speaker: Thank you for the way you chaired it.

Pam Dignum: One guide could not accept it and was asked to leave. As was a door keeper. How many others I can’t say. It did pose difficulties for those with a different viewpoint.