This June, community heritage project ‘Storyboat 700+’, is celebrating the 700th anniversary of St Peter’s Church in Portishead.
The initiative, supported by funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, will culminate in a Patronal Festival Service conducted by Bishop Ruth Worsley taking place on the morning of Sunday 27 June, where a stunning, aerial, ‘flotilla sculpture’ will be showcased.
Displayed in the nave of the Church, the wave-shaped sculpture is made up of 700 suspended card boats, depicting written stories, memories and colourful designs, created by members of the community to provide a flotilla of tales from the town.
Over the past months, stories have flooded in from a diverse range of community members, including local schoolchildren, community groups, residents and members of the congregation, with more than 950 boats completed.
Due to the limited numbers allowed in the congregation following Covid guidance, the celebration service will be streamed live from the Church at 10.30am to St Peter’s Primary School Hall, which will be decorated with boat bunting made from the additional storyboats gathered.
There will also be an opportunity for people to share together in socially distanced communion, which will take place outdoors in the school field following the service.
Advance booking for the Church events is required via the church office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. All activities will follow Covid-secure measures with numbers set according to current Government guidelines.
The service will also be livestreamed into people’s homes via YouTube and available on Facebook.
St Peter’s church will be open as usual for visitors every day during daylight hours from June 21st onwards.
St Peter’s Church spokesperson, Verity Eastwood Dewing, said: “We are excited to finally share all the wonderful Storyboat 700+ activities that have been taking place within the community throughout this past year. The flotilla sculpture truly represents Portishead and the area, with colourful, decorated storyboats capturing people’s thoughts and memories.”
St Peter’s Church has worked closely with North Somerset arts organisation, Theatre Orchard, to devise a Covid-safe creative programme of activities engaging people in Portishead and the area.
A ‘Tidal Tales’ drama piece, filmed previously in the Church grounds, will be shown at St Peter’s Church from 2.30pm on Sunday 27th June. Limited numbers and Covid-safe measures apply and face coverings will need to be worn inside the Church.
The film will also be shared on Facebook at storyboat700plus and available to watch online at portisheadparish.co.uk and theatreorchard.org.uk.
Featuring performances by youth members of Portishead’s MultiStory Drama Academy, and devised by MultiStory’s director Abi Hill, ‘Tidal Tales’ is a series of story vignettes, representing 700 years of history. Inspired by stories from local families received as part of the story gathering process, extracts include the storming of Portishead’s Battery Point during the Civil War; a tribute to those who left the town to fight in both World Wars; a piece about the Nautical School, moored for a while off shore on the HMS Formidable in Portishead and a scene about ‘The Naughty Parishioners’!
An installation of illuminated willow sculptures featuring a symbolic tree, boat and keys, will also decorate the Church, created by community artist Helen Wheelock.
To mark the occasion, cellist Sarah Moody has composed a ‘Storyboat 700+ Overture’ drawing upon different musical influences from world-famous band ‘Portishead’ to church bells and local sea shanties, which will be recorded for visitors to St Peter’s to listen to now and in years to come.
Visitors to the Church can also enjoy a specially created soundscape featuring younger members of MultiStory Drama Academy and St Peter’s Church groups talking about the future of Portishead.
A legacy film capturing highlights of the Storyboat 700+ campaign is being produced by filmmaker Nick Sutton.
Angela Athay-Hunt, Engagement Manager at Theatre Orchard, said: “The Storyboat 700+ sculpture, willow installations, soundscapes and films will provide a unique and lasting legacy, celebrating St Peter’s Church as one of the oldest heritage buildings in Portishead, at the heart of the community.”
In the week running up to the Patronal service, people will have the chance to view the flotilla sculpture and willow installations, listen to the specially commissioned soundscapes and watch a screening of photographs depicting the history of St Peter’s and the area from the past 100 years, produced by church member and local historian Mike Burt.
On Tuesday 22nd June, 10am – 1pm and Thursday 24th June, 10am – 4pm, the Church is inviting the public to catch up with friends and drop-in for morning coffee or afternoon tea and cake, at the same time as enjoying the Storyboat 700+ spectacles.
Limited numbers and covid-safe measures will apply. For more information, contact Kathryn Phillips at email@example.com.
The ‘Storyboat 700+’ project has both preserved the heritage of the physical building of the Church and shone a light on the role St Peter’s has played over the centuries in the area’s rich history.
Originally planned for March 2020, the anniversary event was postponed due to coronavirus. Since then, building works and essential repairs to the Grade 1 listed building have been completed, ensuring safety and longevity at this significant, local heritage site.
A social media campaign invited people to digitally share its stories and memories of Portishead and design their own storyboats on card templates provided and local schools got involved in their classrooms.
The Storyboat 700+ flotilla sculpture will remain in the Church until the Autumn before the boats are upcycled into a Community Prayer Coracle in a giant weaving-together of the town’s stories.