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Star Turn at Fairford

Fig. 1. Micah from Window 18 depicting old Testament prophets holding the Prophets’ Creed, c. 1500-15, church of St Mary, Fairford.
Fig. 1. Micah from Window 18 depicting old Testament prophets holding the Prophets’ Creed, c. 1500-15, church of St Mary, Fairford.

Fig. 1. Micah from Window 18 depicting old Testament prophets holding the Prophets’ Creed, c. 1500-15, church of St Mary, Fairford.

An audio guide voiced by actors including Alan Rickman, Joanna Lumley and Bill Nighy has been produced for visitors to the world-famous church of St Mary at Fairford (Gloucestershire), home to the most complete set of late medieval painted windows in England (see links below).

The initiative was the brainchild of Nicolas Kent, the former artistic director of the Tricycle Theatre in London, who thought the windows needed an audio guide and started recruiting the voices. All the stars donated their time free of charge. The actor, theatre director and playwright Mark Rylance together with the ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ star Joanne Lumley provide the introduction, while the Channel Four news anchor, John Snow, narrates the history of the church.

Local people also participated in voicing the guide, including Geoff Hawkes, the chairman of the Friends of St Mary’s Church, and Maurice Jones, the Fairford town crier. Working from a script written by the late Denys Hodson CBE (1928–2013), who had overseen the restoration of the windows by the Barley Studios in York, each actor describes the history and imagery of a particular window.

The guide was funded by the Friends and is dedicated to the memory of Denys. According to Churchwarden Mike Godsal, the guide has proved an instant success with visitors. The actors and celebrities featured include

•    Alan Rickman
•    Anne Robinson
•    Bill Nighy
•    Celia Imrie
•    Frances de la Tour
•    Hayley Mills
•    Joanna Lumley
•    Jon Snow
•    Richard Wilson
•    Tim Piggott-Smith
•    Zoe Wanamaker

Further Reading

S. Brown and L. MacDonald, Fairford Parish Church: A Medieval Church and its Stained Glass, Stroud, 1997 (rev. edn 2007)

H. Wayment, The Stained Glass of the Church of St Mary, Fairford, Gloucestershire, The Society of Antiquaries of London Occasional Papers, new series, V, 1984

H. Wayment, ‘The Glaziers’ Sorting Marks at Fairford’, in P. Moore (ed.), Crown in Glory: A Celebration of Craftsmanship – Studies in Stained Glass, Norwich, 1982, pp. 23–28

The Fairford glazing is contextualized in terms of English medieval stained glass generally in R. Marks, Stained Glass in England During the Middle Ages, London, 1993.

Links

Restoration of the windows

Vidimus 42

Denys Hodson obituary

Online at The Guardian website