Save our Species – Durham Cathedral

23rd August 2023

Artwork from over 200 school pupils has gone on display in Durham Cathedral’s Cloisters to raise awareness of the fragility of our species.

Save our Species – Durham Cathedral

Save our Species is a school outreach project with artist Becky Mackenzie to coincide with Luke Jerram’s earth-artwork, Gaia, currently on display in Durham Cathedral until September 10.

Save our Species - Durham Cathedral

The artist worked with pupils aged seven to 15 from across the North East to create illustrations of extinct or critically endangered species which were then carefully printed onto ceramics.

The pupils were asked to think about the biodiversity crisis and create monochrome illustrations of species that have become extinct or that are on the critically endangered list and the resulting 336 drawings of different species including insects, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and water creatures were then printed onto ceramic plates crafted by Becky, to create the installation in the cathedral cloister.

Andrew Usher, Chief Officer for Visitor Experience and Enterprise at Durham Cathedral, said:

“With Gaia in the cathedral, we wanted to expand on Luke Jerram’s intention for visitors and explore ways to tangibly show the direct impact of the current climate crisis on our nature and wildlife.

“We’re delighted with the final display – the pupils’ work is fantastic and Becky has translated the fragility of earth’s environment beautifully through her ceramics.

“The Cloisters is a fitting place for this exhibition as the hoardings the artwork is displayed on is only there due to the ongoing effects of climate change.”

Since 2016, each corner of the mediaeval Cloisters has been supported by scaffolding and hoarding which is needed due to increased rainfall levels. The historic guttering can no longer cope with the volume of water, resulting in water damage and structural concerns. This area of the cathedral is also part of an important regional habitat for Common Pipistrelle bats, which are seen swarming the Cloisters in late summer every year.

Save our Species - Durham Cathedral

Artist Becky Mackenzie, said:

“I have been really impressed by the response and enthusiasm from the schools.

“Although the students were provided with a brief of species to get them started, they took initiative to research other plants and animals to highlight, resulting in an extensive and varied body of work. The quality and diversity of the illustrations are incredible.

On the last weekend of Gaia at Durham Cathedral, 8 – 10 September, visitors will be invited to take one of the unique ceramic designs home representing the potential risk to these species as they disappear permanently from the cathedral Cloisters and potentially the earth.

For more information click here.