St John’s Church transformed for Light Up Lancaster

Earlier this month, St John the Evangelist Church, Lancaster, was taken over by contemporary artist Anne Bennett, with her light installation Butterfly Dream: Making the Invisible Visible. The church was transformed, with thousands of glowing neon butterflies suspended from the galleries and spinning slowly in the air above the beautiful Georgian pews, creating a true spectacle and an amazing atmosphere in a church which is normally closed due to its poor condition.

Thousands of visitors made their way to St John’s to see the installation; after queuing outside they were able to walk right through the cloud of shimmering butterflies. People were amazed by the beauty of the exhibition and the incredible effort that Anne puts into her work, with each butterfly individually drawn, cut and hand painted before being hung in place.

“There was something magical about the way this installation transformed St John’s” said Local Community Officer Mahalia France-Mir. “With the blue and pink butterflies and the yellow light shining through the arched windows, people were able to experience the space very differently. Children pointed out their favourite butterflies with a sense of wonder whilst others took in the historic and architectural features of the building in new ways. And of course, it was fantastic to see so many people inside St John’s on a wet and dark night!”.

© CCT / Elanor Johnson


In addition to night-time opening on the 4th and 5th November, St John’s welcomed visitors in the afternoon giving local people an opportunity to explore the interior of the church, comment on ideas for the future of St John’s, and find out more about Lancaster City Council’s new Conservation Management Plan for the Mill Race Area, which is currently at consultation stage.

“Light Up Lancaster offered a fantastic opportunity for CCT to welcome local people to St John’s and talk to communities about the future of the building” said Regeneration Officer Elanor Johnson. “Working with local partners to make the event happen and the chance to work with a talented emerging artist also helps us to strengthen our networks and explore new ways of making our churches accessible to wide audiences”.

The installation was part of Light Up Lancaster, a two-day festival of light delivered in partnership by Lancaster City Council, Lancaster BID and The Dukes, supported by funding from Arts Council England, Lancaster City Council and Lancaster BID with addition contributions from other local organisations. It is part of the Light Up the North network of light festivals taking place across cities in the North of England, and aims to illuminate and celebrate Lancaster’s landscapes, heritage and communities. Butterfly Dream: Making the Invisible Visible was created by Anne Bennett and produced by George Harris of Lancaster Arts.