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Salisbury Cathedral’s new Magna Carta Exhibition, Magna Carta: Spirit of Justice, Power of Words opened in March. The exhibition receives around 12,000 visitors per week, 40% of whom are from the UK and 60% international. After UK visitors, 13% come from the USA, 10% from Italy and 7% from Germany.

The exhibition focuses on the symbolism of Magna Carta as an emblem of the fight for justice as well as setting the historic context of the document in the struggles of 13th century England. It uses film and both digital and physical interactives to bring the Magna Carta story to life.

The aim of the exhibition, apart from telling the story of Magna Carta and its connection to Salisbury, is to encourage visitors of all ages to reflect on what Magna Carta means to them today. For this reason, the exhibition links Magna Carta to contemporary movements to freedom and rights around the world. It also captures the aspirations of local six form students for a better society.

All visitors are asked to answer the question “If you could get a group of barons together to fight for any one thing, what would it be?”

The year is abuzz with cultural activity. The summer started with a performance of Shakespeare’s King John by the Globe Theatre and was followed by a Gala concert featuring the premiere of ‘A Letter of Rights’ a new piece of work by Alice Goodman and Tarik O’Regan, a Magna Carta fanfare by the Royal Artillery Band, and a reading by Edward Fox. A pilgrimage from Old Sarum to Salisbury traced the route of Magna Carta itself, and culminated in the libertea, a tea party attended by over 2,000 people. On June 15th itself, 4000 residents of Wiltshire followed banners and giant barons decorated to represent Wiltshire’s 18 communities through the city of Salisbury, culminating with a pyrotechnic display in the Close.

800 children performed ‘Magna Cantata‘, a Magna Carta musical in the magnificent setting of the Cathedral nave, and Salisbury Playhouse’s youth theatre group performed a new work – Clause 39, driving home the point about the importance of protecting human rights even today. Meanwhile, in town, Hoodwink Theatre produced an immersive theatre piece set in Salisbury’s oak court. Other cultural activities include light-based contemporary art installations, a trail of painted baron sculptures dotting the city, and banners painted by a Wiltshire community groups, to name but a few. A major flower festival is due to take place in September.

Funding for these activities was kindly made available by the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Magna Carta 800th Committee and the Arts Council, England.

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