Before the gallows was packed away, the performance of The Martyrdom of Saint John Ogilvie was being considered for revival in 2015. That will be 400 years after the man was hanged at Glasgow Cross.
The story of the Scottish Catholic priest who was tortured, tried and convicted for treason in the climate of major change in the run up to the Reformation was told and re-told 11 times during Lentfest in churches in and beyond Glasgow.
At the final night in St Aloysius’ Church, Garnethill, the dramatic events unfolded before an audience of around 200. Principal actor, script writer, director and van driver Stephen Callaghan, showed clearly how this man died to defend religious freedom for everyone. The cast presented a moving story that made sense of history.
Stephen – who is also Director of Lentfest, an arts and music festival promoted by the Archdiocese of Glasgow – said: ‘This has been so worthwhile. We have a wonderful cast and crew from all over Glasgow and beyond and of different backgrounds and faiths. Each has brought something unique to the play. I hope the play will inspire people to find out more about St John Ogilvie.’
As the final bows were taken, one of the youngest cast members stepped forward spontaneously and thanked Stephen for how she had been welcomed into AGAP Community Theatre. ‘I knew no-one when I arrived,’ said the 16-year-old. ‘Now I have many friends.’
Many of the audience knew little of the martyr Saint John Ogilvie before they arrived, but they left with a new perspective on the freedom to follow any faith today in Scotland and how this has been won by martyrs like St John Ogilvie.
The performance was one of the last major music and drama events held for Lentfest. But during Holy Week there will be ‘Women at the Cross’ in St Alphonsus’ Church on Monday 2 April at 7.30pm.
At University of Glasgow Memorial Chapel there will be the free art exhibition depicting many different artists’ interpretation of events around Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. The exhibition is open 9am till 5pm. Among some of the University’s own artefacts will be Roman nails of the type used in the time of Christ for crucifixion.
On Sunday 15 April at 3pm there will be Ecumenical Stations: Via Lucis: Stations of the Resurrection with prayers and meditations led by the University of Glasgow Chaplaincy Team, Rev Stuart MacQuarrie, Fr John Keenan and Strathclyde University Catholic Chaplain, Fr Brendan Slevin OP, held in Glasgow University’s Memorial Chapel.
Arts festival LENTFEST was blessed with high powered backers at its launch on Tuesday 21 February, including the Vatican’s Culture Cardinal, Gianfranco Ravasi.
Started by Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti ten years ago as he took office, Lentfest has grown to be a major source of creative Christian endeavour across the city from just before the start of Lent till after Easter. It involves all three universities and churches in every part of the Archdiocese.
Said Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the launch: ‘Lentfest helps mutual awareness and respect. It confirms Glasgow as the Scottish Cultural Capital and the city can be extremely proud of this celebration of faith through the arts.’ On behalf of the University of Glasgow, Vice Principal Professor Graham Caie praised the ‘terrific programme of music and drama’ and reminded the large audience gathered in the University’s Memorial Chapel, that the University had been founded in 1451 by Pope Nicholas V, then head of the Catholic Church.
Bailie John McLaughlin brought greetings and good wishes from Glasgow’s Lord Provost, Bob Winter and said: ‘We hope Lentfest will continue to play an important part in the cultural life of the city and of the Archdiocese. The Catholic Church and the wider Christian community play a vital role in this city.’
Festival Director Stephen Callaghan who said he ‘fixed the nuts and bolts’ admitted he felt humbled by the gathering for this year’s launch. He said: ‘It is hard not to be emotional about the great community of good will towards Lentfest.’ After reading out the letter of support from Cardinal Ravasi he said: ‘Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d receive such endorsement. It is wonderful to have this. But it is also wonderful to have the card with good wishes from a local Father who has nourished Lentfest from the beginning.’
The programme includes talks on the influence of Christian faith set against the backdrop of the Art Exhibition in the University Memorial Chapel which has work from Peter Howson, Richard Demarco, Jolomo (John Lowrie Morrison) among many other prominent artists. There will be music ranging from Scotland’s pre-eminent composer, James MacMillan’s work ‘Why is this night different?’ with the composer, himself, introducing it – to The Hound of Heaven, a six song cycle for solo tenor and piano and Alessandra Pompili playing Franz Liszt’s score of the Way of the Cross with the projection of pictures that inspired its composition.
The children of St Joseph’s Primary School in Faifley, Clydebank sang at the launch to highlight the appeal for 1000 people to assemble at 7pm on Monday 19 March in St Margaret’s church Clydebank and St Anne’s in Dennistoun to pray, sing and laugh together to bring spiritual hope to communities.
The highlight of this year’s Lentfest will be an exhibition of the Stations of the Cross and Resurrection, as well a production of the Martyrdom of St. John Ogilvie, Scotland’s martyr who was hanged at Glasgow Cross in 1615. Written by StephenCallaghan, Lentfest director, he will have to play the main character because the actor preparing to do that, has had to drop out of the production. The drama will be seen in eleven venues across the city.
For full details of Lentfest see website: www.agap.org.ukwhich is the Archdiocese of Glasgow’s Arts Project.