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January 28, 2013

Kicking off in St Albans

Lesli Good, St Albans City and District Council

It may not be widely known, but the build up to the sealing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215 actually began in St Albans on the 4 August 1213 when Barons and clergy met at St Albans Abbey.
It was at this meeting that the King’s Justiciar agreed to pay compensation for past grievances. This was a historic royal concession and quickly led to calls for general rights and privileges based on the Charter of Liberties of Henry I, which by then had become the template for Magna Carta.
So it is with considerable pride that we will be holding the first commemorations for the 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta to mark this seminal moment. This will kick off two years of celebrations at charter towns up and down the UK and in countries worldwide where the Magna Carta has had an influence on people’s lives and liberties.

There will be a number of events taking place across the city and I wanted to give you a flavour of what we have planned.

On August 2nd we have Professor Vernon Bogdanor visiting to give a lecture at the Lady Chapel, St Albans Cathedral. Professor Bogdanor is one of Britain’s foremost constitutional experts and has written extensively on political and constitutional issues. He will be giving what I am sure will be a fascinating insight into the impact of the Magna Carta.

We will be holding a Magna Carta concert in St. Albans Cathedral, and a Magna Carta Evensong sung by a visiting choir, St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Rochester, United States, and with the Reverend Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, a renowned church historian, with considerable expertise on this period, speaking.
There will also be a two day medieval festival to bring to life the times and culture of 1213, and a schools programme exploring events and circumstances around Magna Carta.

The Museum of St Albans is showing an exhibition which will highlight the key individuals in the Magna Carta story including Bishop Langton, King John and three of the Barons as well as exploring the Henry I Coronation Charter and ‘ten other journeys to secure human/civic rights.’   ‘Magna Carta 1213: The Journey Starts Here’ will run from the 3rd June to 6th September 2013.  The exhibition will be available as a touring exhibition for use by other charter towns or interested parties.

Meanwhile, St Albans Cathedral will be hosting the Lincoln Magna Carta, the first time that an original copy of the Magna Carta has been seen in St Albans.

Perhaps most uniquely, we will be publishing the “Manga Carta”, retelling the story of the Magna Carta in the style of Japanese manga cartoons.  The book will be produced by local people and visitors working with a volunteer manga artist, and large scale versions of the artwork will be sited temporarily in the city centre.

There is still plenty to be done though and I would urge anyone who would like to be involved in, or contribute to, the St. Albans commemorations, please contact me directly at [email protected] or through the Magna Carta 800th website or twitter account. Any involvement small or large will be greatly appreciated.
More events will be added between now and the summer and we are very excited with what is shaping up to be a memorable festival and, we hope, a fitting start to the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary.



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