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Art opens doors in Royton!

First published on: 20th October 2023

The Revd Liz Devall, Vicar of Heyside and Royton and Rector, The Society of Catholic Priests, Manchester Chapter has shared her reflection on the fabulous event that was 'The Human One Exhibition'. Here she shares her experience of how art helped to reach out and inspire young and old.

"St Anne’s Royton wanted to make the most of the incredible opportunity of hosting the Welsh artist, Jez Thomas’ touring Art Exhibition, The Human One and we worked hard to encourage as many people to visit as possible. Thanks to diocesan e-news, local press, Gallery Oldham and Oldham Libraries, local art groups and local churches as well as the artist himself sharing our social media posts we were overwhelmed by the response! Throughout September over 600 people from all over the North-West walked through the doors of St Anne’s church and visited the exhibition and engaged with the art, with our church building, and our church community.


"We were encouraged that people travelled across the diocese from churches in Whalley Range and Wythenshawe as well as from churches more locally in Middleton, Heywood, Rochdale and Oldham. We welcomed visitors who worship at local Roman Catholic and Methodist churches too. Some visitors follow Jez on social media and saw the exhibition was in Royton and visited from as far afield as Widnes,  Preston and Lancaster! One visitor writes for the website Ekklesia and to our surprise  left a review of the exhibition  here saying “the warmth of the welcome (at St Anne’s) added to the enjoyment of the whole experience.”.  In our visitors book many people thanked us for bringing the artwork to Royton.

"Reasons for visiting the exhibition were varied. Some people visited simply to enjoy the art, others visited as part of the Heritage Open Days, others came hoping to be inspired in their faith.  No matter what the reason for the visit, the exhibition enabled us as a church to have wide ranging conversations, often relating to faith, with people we wouldn’t have otherwise encountered.  Many people were visibly moved by the exhibition and talked with Revd Liz or one of the many volunteers about their experience. A good number of people shared with us that they had lived in Royton for decades and had never been in the church before, or not since their childhood.  The exhibition proved to be for them an open door, an easy way in to a place they had been thinking of visiting for some time – many of those people then expressed a desire to return.

"Children’s crafts mornings inspired by the exhibition were led by Laura Tebay, Man Dio Growing Faith Deanery Enabler for Oldham and Ashton, which engaged children with the paintings and developed their own creativity. Laura also helped with the work being done with St Anne’s school.

"Two hundred pupils from St Anne’s engaged with the exhibition over the course of 6 days and it was interesting to hear their favourite paintings, how the paintings made them feel and what they found intriguing. One pupil shared that she like a painting depicting the story of the Gadarene Demoniac, a painting some had found disturbing, yet to her it was comforting, It reminded her that Jesus promises that we he will always be with us and that when we are lost, he will come to find us. The Headteacher Sue Holt, was excited that the children had the unique opportunity to meet and chat with the artist! It was an inspiring and encouraging time for staff, pupils and Jez as the pupils asked lots of probing questions and shared their thoughts about the paintings!

"Jez’s work began on ‘The Human One’ exhibition after hearing a rousing sermon to go out and spread the Word using our own talents. Jez took up this challenge and once the painting were completed, he continued the mission to spread the good news by taking the paintings on tour. His hope was that the touring exhibition would be ecumenical in spirit and inspiring to people of all faiths and none. It has been a real blessing and encouragement for our church community to have hosted this stunning exhibition and for us to open our doors, welcome people into our building and engage with the community in this way. Jez’s hopes for his exhibition have certainly been fulfilled here in Royton, and for that thanks be to God!"


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