Skip to content

Cathedral aims to amaze with Festival of Flowers

It's flower-arranging, Jim, but not as we know it ... Southwark Cathedral's August flower festival is nothing if not ambitious

Avant-garde masterpieces depicting William Shakespeare, a ‘walk through’ Olympic Stadium and a giant ‘moving’ eye all created through the medium of flowers will be unveiled at London’s Southwark Cathedral in August.

As the countdown to London 2012 nears completion, the UK’s top floral design talent is descending on Southwark Cathedral to create and inspire a living gallery at the Festival of Flowers from 23-26 August.

Multi-award winning designer, Mig Kimpton, is the Festival’s artistic director, commissioning wildly ambitious yet exquisite works of contemporary floral art from 75 top-class designers. Providing a beautiful haven of peace and tranquility in the heart of London between the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Festival of Flowers is a unique and extraordinarily bold event hosted by The Leprosy Mission.

Using the theme of ‘transformation’, it celebrates the work of the international development charity which strives to help millions battling the consequences of leprosy – a curable but desperately disabling disease – to rebuild their lives. 

The festival’s theme of transformation also depicts the ever-changing London landscape in Olympic year and celebrates the achievements of its athletes – many of which have overcome adversity themselves.

Awarded a Silver-Gilt at the Chelsea Flower Show this week for his Olympic torch design, Mig Kimpton’s showpiece at the Festival of Flowers is aptly named Eye of Wonder. Eight feet high and 12 feet wide, it consists of an eye-shaped aperture which will form the talking point of the nave with festival goers able to ‘look through’ the eye to view a heavenly picture of flowers leading to the altar.

Mig, who away from his floral design career is Executive Director at the Arts Theatre London and London Season Manager for the Royal Shakespeare Company, said:  “The aperture will be decorated with 1,000 glass globes each filled with a single gerbera of every colour imaginable. The statement piece will use theatrical lighting to capture the ‘movement’ of the eye.”

Celebrating our country’s finest heritage just a stone’s throw from the Globe Theatre, Brazilian-born Zita Elze’s ‘Vignette of William Shakespeare’ depicts the Bard lying on a bank of flowers contemplating garlands of roses.

Zita, now based in Kew and recently described by Fusion Flowers magazine as ‘the doyenne of floral chic’, said: “I want to create a scene as though Shakespeare is lying on a carpet of flowers which will mainly be roses under an embroidered tree.  From this tree, I will hang some very delicate embroidered garlands of small spray roses alongside little buds of flowers.”

Meanwhile, Creative Flower Director at Salisbury Cathedral, Michael Bowyer, has the brief of recreating the Olympic Stadium in flowers. Last year, Michael masterminded the Salisbury Cathedral Flower Festival featuring work from more than 500 arrangers.

He said: “I plan for festival goers to actually walk through the stadium which will be formed from wild clematis vines woven onto two semi circular structures, each about six feet high. They will be bedecked in vibrantly coloured flowers to depict the excitement of the activity and will use arum lilies to illustrate the floodlighting.”

The Festival of Flowers is the brainchild of Lisa-Jayne Lewis, The Leprosy Mission’s area coordinator for the South East, who qualified as a National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies (NAFAS) demonstrator in 2009.

Lisa had a vision of celebrating unrivalled talent in floral art while at the same time raising the profile of the millions of people worldwide affected by leprosy and the transformative work of The Leprosy Mission.

She said: “My part of the Festival design brief showcases the work of The Leprosy Mission using metal bulb-shaped structures which will be filled with different varieties of lily. The giant flower bulbs symbolise new life waiting to burst open which emulates the Festival’s theme of transformation. The design also evokes the Olympics and Paralympics in the unlocking of potential as well as the spiritual blossoming radiating from Southwark Cathedral.”

Find out more at

Get more inspiring reading

To find back issues of the INSPIRE mini-mag - seasonal and themed issues - go to