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Abbey visitors suffer for their art

PUBLISHED: 14:19 07 August 2008 | UPDATED: 14:37 14 July 2010

A row has broken out over the reception is it claimed a group of artists received when they accepted an open invitation to set up their easels in Wymondham Abbey.

A row has broken out over the reception is it claimed a group of artists received when they accepted an open invitation to set up their easels in Wymondham Abbey.

The trio are members of the art club at Spooner Row and had turned up in response to an article in the 2008 Wymondham Music Festival programme.

This advertised August as arts month in the abbey and invited local artists to paint there between 11am to 3pm on weekdays.

But things did not turn out as expected, according to Patricia Welsh who said when she and her companions arrived they were confronted by “one of the rudest churchwardens I have ever met.”

She intends making a written complaint to the Bishop of Norwich about the incident. She said: “I was told 'You cannot sit there and do that, this is a church, you need to learn some respect'.

“Well, as a devout Christian and lifelong church member, this was too much and a controlled though passionate exchange ensued.”

One of the main problems was that no-one looking after the abbey reception desk area knew anything of the invitation to artists.

“I did say to the churchwarden that it is a week for open churches in Norfolk with 100 churches being open and that I am sure I would have got a better, warmer and more Christian welcome from any of the other 99,” added Mrs Welsh, of Morley St Botolph.

Barbara Randall, secretary of the music festival, said she felt partly to blame as, although she had authorisation to hold the event, she forgot to publicise it in the latest edition of the parish magazine.

“I was really upset when I heard what had happened.

“The invitation was approved back in February with the vicar and I assumed at the time he had talked to the churchwardens about it,” she said.

The Vicar of Wymondham, Canon Christopher Davies, stressed that the abbey is there for everybody, and the reason for organising different events such as art month is to encourage people to make greater use of the building.

“I think what has happened is, although it was scheduled, we had forgotten about it, which is no defence, and the abbey guards were caught off their guard,” he explained.

“I have talked to the churchwarden and I am convinced he did ask the lady quite politely if she would move as she was in a quiet area where people go to pray.”

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