Parade to mark 950th Anniversary of Selby Abbey

Published: 26 June 2019

A carnival style parade through the streets of Selby is being planned to help the town and the Abbey celebrate the 950th anniversary of the inspirational building.

The event will celebrate the Feast Day of the Abbey’s patron saint Germain on Wednesday 31 July with banners, articulated puppets, dancing and music.  The Abbey will also be welcoming a newly commissioned icon of St Germain on the day.

Created and performed by locally based arts and community groups, and part-funded by Arts Council England, the day will reference the journey of the monk, Benedict, who founded the Abbey in 1069, from France to Selby.

“This will be a high quality, celebratory project providing a chance for people, living, working and studying in Selby to connect with their history and join in the parade,” explained Cllr Chris Pearson.

“We’ve always known there was a real variety of arts groups in our district and it is fantastic to see them come together to work on this kind of large scale project. There’ll be silk banners, a ten foot tall Benedict, articulated swan puppets and dancing students telling this wonderful story which is an integral part of the story of our Abbey and the town itself.”

Several Selby-based groups will be working with leading arts company, Edgelands Arts, to deliver a truly spectacular event, including:

o    Selby Abbey Choir, living history groups and reenactors

o    Tadcaster-based Leilah Vyner, from Dragon Willow, will work with local groups to weave and make puppets and creatures from all types of natural materials.

o    Selby Theatre  and Dance Academy will work with Selby’s cheerleaders, dancers, gymnasts and sports clubs clubs

o    Just Drama, a local dramaturgist, will involve local schools and help devise and create a performance within the parade 

o    Local music ensembles and musicians from schools have also been approached to get involved

Bev Adams, Parade Director and Co-Director of Edgelands Arts, said:  “Benedict had an epic journey from France to Yorkshire to found Selby and a parade is the perfect way to tell this fantastic story and celebrate the town right up to the present day.  I am really looking forward to working local artists and the people of Selby to making a fun, colourful, moving storyboard through Selby’s streets. Everyone is welcome to participate so please do get in touch.” 

Selby Abbey vicar John Weetman commented, “The story how the Abbey came to be founded, is a rich and marvellous tale involving visions, mutilation, theft, and great travels.  St Germain’s finger, previously bitten off by an excessively devout monk, is taken (at his behest in a heavenly vision) from his tomb in Auxerre.  Benedict then transports it to England within his arm (to avoid detection) and finally lands at Selby (having first made a wrong turn and headed to Salisbury), where he founds the first Benedictine monastery which subsequently became the site of the Abbey.

“We want to bring together and welcome the wider community to join with us in this celebration.”   

The parade will start from Scott Road Community Centre and end at Selby Abbey where a living history day will be taking place – there’ll be events, crafts and re-enactments in and around the Abbey all day. Selby Abbey will also welcome the arrival of their new icon of St Germain on the same day.

The parade is part of the Selby 950 year long celebrations, which also includes the Selby Sings project involving local school children and a large scale performance in Selby Abbey. There’ll also be a light-work installation by a leading artist to illuminate the Abbey for three evenings in November. The artwork, sponsored by Drax Group plc, will feature recorded footage (made during a period of residency in Selby). There’s also a Hidden Histories street scape project that explores the history and heritage of Selby.  These events have been made possible due to funding from the Arts Council of nearly £70,000 and National Lottery Heritage Fund of £45,000.