Sheffield Cathedral to launch into space through The Observatory

The final countdown is now on to the opening night of The Observatory on Friday 13 March.

Preparations are in full swing as the Cathedral gets ready to welcome another bumper audience to see its latest ‘son et lumière’ – a nighttime sound and light show usually presented in a building of historic significance. Sheffield Cathedral dates back to the 1400’s and is the oldest building in Sheffield in continuous daily use.

The previous event, The Angels are Coming in December, received rave reviews as more than 11,500 people visited Sheffield Cathedral over 5 nights.

We spoke to Reverend Canon Keith Farrow, Vice Dean of Sheffield Cathedral, about the exciting upcoming events aiming to unite people of the city with one of its most historic buildings.

Following on from the success of The Angels are Coming, another immersive light show The Observatory will be heading to the Cathedral. What excites you about bringing this event to Sheffield?
We were overwhelmed by the response of people to The Angels are Coming and we saw 11,500 people come to that event. Many of those were first time visitors to Sheffield Cathedral. I’m always excited by the prospect of new people coming to visit this amazing space. It is the oldest building in Sheffield which has been in continual use for many hundreds of years. It is a building which has been through thick and thin, as the saying goes, with the city of Sheffield. It’s a place where people have come to pray, in good times and bad. Ancient churches would at one time have been brightly painted and coloured on the interior and many of the images would have told people the stories of faith and depictions of events in the bible. I suppose we are following that tradition but with modern technology using light and sound.

What are you aiming to achieve by hosting these types of immersive events at Sheffield Cathedral?
We hope the experience of travelling through space and time, standing amongst the stars journeying to the edge of the universe and back in this amazing place will also give people space to contemplate their own personal journey of life. Our strap line is, ‘Sheffield Cathedral, A Place for All People’ and we hope that the Observatory will introduce many people to this amazing place and that they will feel they can return time and time again. We want to play our part in contributing to the life of the city centre and raise the profile of not only the Cathedral but the city and region. The events also contribute in generating income to ensure that this beautiful place is maintained and developed for the generations yet to come.

The building is of course steeped in Sheffield heritage. What stories can people discover by visiting?
I have a saying that ‘The history of Sheffield is carved in the walls of the Cathedral’. There are many memorials to well known Sheffield people which celebrate their unique contribution to the city. We have the moving Regimental Chapel to the York and Lancaster Regiment and also the bell from HMS
Sheffield. This bell is rung every year at the memorial service for those lost in the HMS Sheffield during the Falkands War. It is very moving to hear it rung 21 times at that service as the names of those who were lost are read out. We have a heritage interpretation centre which gives a hugely helpful overview of the Cathedral’s history and significant people associated with it. The Shrewsbury Chapel and tombs are well worth visiting. There is a team of trained guides who are happy to give people a tour.

Do you have a favourite piece of Sheffield Cathedral trivia?
There is a very ancient piece of furniture in the Cathedral called a Sedilia, it is a special seat where the priests would have sat during the services. The Cathedral has one which was made in the 14th century. On it are carved various animals one of which is a very naïve carving of a Talbot dog which is the mascot of the Earls of Shrewsbury. It looks a very comical character but was clearly designed to look vicious as they were hunting dogs. It’s more quirky than trivia. The Sedilia is placed in the Chapel of St Katharine, which used to be where the city kept its one and only fire engine in the 18th century, so our archives tell us.

Following the Observatory, are you able to tell us about any other events coming up soon?
The Angels are Coming and The Observatory are the first in a three year series of arts events. The next event in the autumn is an exhibition called The Foundry where we will be  showcasing art and industry in the city, particularly with our steel and silver heritage. In December we will also be having another big event like The Angels, but with a different theme. We are still in the planning stage and will look forward to unveiling the plans over the next couple of months. Keep an eye on our website and social media for details and we hope that people will come and visit the Cathedral at any time as there is always something of interest to see and experience. It’s also a place where many come for quiet and stillness; it’s a great place to think, reflect and pray. Come and visit – you will not be disappointed!

The Observatory takes place from 13-20 March, with tickets available at and on the door (subject to availability).

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