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Cathedral pays tribute to Norwich arts pioneer

Norwich Cathedral is to host an exhibition celebrating the life of local sculptor, calligrapher and musician David Holgate ...

A group of Norfolk arts organisations are combining to stage an exhibition at The Hostry at Norwich Cathedral, from January 21 to February 26, celebrating the life of David Holgate, reports Network Norwich.

David, who died in 2014, was an active member of all three arts organisations – Norfolk Contemporary Art Society, Norfolk Contemporary Craft Society and Norwich Twenty Group.  The title of the show, Exuberance is Beauty, is taken from one of David’s exquisite pieces of letter carving.

David was a man for whom the term polymath could have been invented. An accomplished musician, sculptor, calligrapher, and an innovative teacher, his life and work seemed to be united in a brave and inexhaustible search for meaning and beauty in everything he did.  

He is probably best known for the statues of Mother Julian and St Benedict on the west front of Norwich Cathedral, but this remarkable man’s work is spread throughout the Cathedral, the rest of the county and beyond. Numerous churches, cemeteries and buildings feature his letter carving.

He was also a skilled artist and several pieces of his work will be displayed in the exhibition, along with his letter carving, sculpture and working drawings. David’s double bass will also be on show, as well as a collection of photographs and other memorabilia from his musical life.

The exhibition pamphlet features a trail round Norwich Cathedral to help visitors discover the 25 examples of David’s work in the Cathedral, along with a memorial inscription to David, created by his apprentice and assistant, Philippa Fawcett.

From 1955, David was apprenticed for five years to David Kindersley, followed by two years as his assistant. David loved jazz and left stone carving to pursue a career as a professional musician, playing his double bass with numerous bands, including a support band for the Beach Boys. David eventually set up a workshop in Norfolk in the 1970s.

Katy Gandon, David Holgate’s daughter commented: “Norwich – a fine city, and for thousands of years has been made finer by those who have lived and worked here, giving their time and energy to the upkeep and preservation of its historical beauty. David Holgate was one of these. A man who, although not actually born in the city, adopted it as his home and devoted his life to the historical buildings and churches of the city and the surrounding villages."

“It is for this reason that it is important that David's work has been documented and presented in this retrospective, showcasing what a significant contributor he was to the preservation and future of this beautiful county.

“This retrospective is a celebration of an extremely talented man, who always had time to share his enthusiasm for the all arts with people from all walks of life, and has literally and metaphorically left his mark on this city and county. His exuberance was, and is beautiful.”

The Hostry is open Monday to Saturday 9.30am to 4.30pm and Sunday 12 noon to 3pm.
Norwich Cathedral

Pictured above: David Holgate. Photo by Keith Roberts

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