Salisbury Cathedral Flower Festival: Behind the scenes

After a two-year delay due to Covid, Salisbury Cathedral’s Celebration of Flowers is finally underway. 

About 35,000 blooms and hundreds of dazzling displays now decorate the cathedral building and Experience Salisbury has been finding out just what it takes to put this fabulous floral festival together.  

Is there a theme to this year’s Salisbury Cathedral Flower Festival? 

The much-anticipated festival is all about celebration, and there is a lot to celebrate this year! There is the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, the return of the event after a two-year delay and celebration of the cathedral’s past and present. As well as all this, each display has its own celebratory theme. You’ll see displays celebrating the four seasons, music, romance, new life and so much more.  

Hanging displays at the Salisbury Cathedral Flower Festival

There is also an eco-theme to this year’s event, with the cathedral taking special consideration of environmental impacts and sustainability. Their focus is on reducing waste, recycling and re-using materials so they’ve used as many stands and frames as possible from previous festivals. Glass jars are being used instead of plastics and organisers have also put a stop to using traditional floral foam which is known to contain a large quantity of plastics and can’t be recycled. As well as all this, the cathedral is taking part in #NoMowMay by leaving their grounds to re-wild for the whole month. The national initiative aims to encourage wildlife to flourish. 

Reused glass jars ready to be used as preparations begin at the Flower Festival

How were all the displays put together? 

450 flower arrangers from across the diocese, region and even Jersey made their way to Salisbury Cathedral yesterday (9th May 2022) to start the enormous task of assembling 127 individual exhibits. Under the watchful eye of the festival designers, Michael Bowyer, Angela Turner and Pam Lewis, the volunteers had just one day to finish all the displays. For Angela, it was a big occasion:

“It’s very emotional because it’s been a long time in the planning. Two years in the planning, longer because of lockdown and you can only visualise, you don’t have the budget to practice, you don’t have the people to practice, so you don’t get to do it till the very day. You can visualise it, sketch it, draw it and imagine what it might look like but until it actually happens you just don’t know how it will turn out. When you see the final piece it’s a goosebump moment. You walk around the corner and think ‘that’s exactly how I wanted it to look’. That is a special thing.” 

Festival designers, Angela Turner, Michael Bowyer and Pam Lewis

What will we see at the Salisbury Cathedral Flower Festival? 

It is a feast for the eyes! The centre piece is a replica of the Queen's Coronation Robe created with dyed grasses and gilded dried plant material.

A replica of the Queen's Coronation Robe at the Salisbury Flower Festival

Meanwhile, the Nave area has been decorated with three broken arches and 400 beautifully crafted hearts hung from the vaulted ceiling. These hearts have been made by community groups in and around Salisbury, including Wessex Care, the Jo Benson Day Centre and St Nicholas Hospital. Getting the community involved like this hasn’t been done before, as the cathedral's Creative Director of Flowers, Michael Bowyer, explains:

“It's the first time with the flower festival that we’ve gone out and invited people to be involved. There have been great workshops here in the cathedral where families have come and they’ve created hearts together and they’ve all been hung.” 

The pandemic and those who have served their communities across the last two difficult years, are not forgotten either. Key workers, carers and NHS staff are celebrated by two floral arches standing over the gates as you enter the North and South Quire aisles. 

The hearts hanging in the cathedral Nave for the Flower Festival

How long is the Flower Festival on for and where can I get tickets? 

The festival is on right now! You can see it at Salisbury Cathedral until Sunday 15th May 2022. You can buy tickets online although there will be a limited number available at the cathedral each day. We cannot guarantee there will be any left though so buying in advance will secure your entrance on the day you want. You can find more information and buy tickets through the cathedral website here. 

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