International art installation returns to Lancaster Priory for rest of January

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Dramatic, moving and internationally co-created art installation The Three Sophias - initially launched late last year - is returning to Lancaster Priory until the end of January after a break for Christmas.

The installation was created to sit alongside a new publication and celebration of the second phase of the ‘Facing the Past’ initiative (funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund).

The Priory will be open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm until January 31 for the public to view the sculptures.

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‘Facing the Past’ is an arts and research programme to reflect, reveal and redress omissions in the way the city of Lancaster has commemorated its role as the fourth largest slavery port in the UK.

Rev Leah and one of the 'Three Sophias' at Lancaster Priory.Rev Leah and one of the 'Three Sophias' at Lancaster Priory.
Rev Leah and one of the 'Three Sophias' at Lancaster Priory.

Newly-commissioned research by local historian Dr Melinda Elder of Lancaster University uncovered new black presences in Lancaster including that of Sophia Fileen. A group of school girls in Sierra Leone have now stepped across the centuries to imagine her life.

Visitors to the art installation can learn about:

*how ‘Facing the Past’ has listened to the public and responded to new heritage

*the commitment of individual partners to the initiative

*Facing the Past’s contribution so far to the racial justice landscape and local impact

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Meanwhile, the difficult past of Lancaster Priory is explored in more depth in a further video released recently by our Diocesan Board of Education.

Rev Leah Vasey-Saunders, who is a member of the ‘Facing the Past’ Steering Group, said: “A significant part of the project was to commission research to understand the Priory’s complicity in transatlantic slavery.

"Local historian Dr Melinda Elder recently uncovered new black lives in Lancaster including that of Sophia Fileen. Sophia, originally of Sierra Leone was baptised in Lancaster Priory on 15 February 1799 and recorded as ‘a negro aged 11 years’ of Lancaster.

“In response, Facing the Past asked a group of 11-year-old school pupils in Sierra Leone to step across the centuries and across continents to imagine Sophia Fileen’s life.

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“Working with Lancaster based movement practitioners and heritage professionals the pupils co-created responses, documented by a professional photographer in Sierra Leone.”

The aim, Rev Leah added, was to connect the youngsters to Sophia as a person - as a young girl with agency, strength, beauty and joy.

This work has resulted in the 'Three Sophias'.