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Cathedral filled with handmade “peace doves” to inspire hope and unity within Derby

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Thousands of paper doves have been suspended in mid-air as part of a breathtaking art installation at Derby Cathedral.

Created by the internationally-recognised sculptor Peter Walker, the Peace Doves exhibit features a total of 8,000 hand-made birds, each hanging from the ceiling of the cathedral by ribbon to create the illusion of flight.

Children from schools across Derby were invited to decorate the doves with illustrations and hopeful messages, with the aim of encouraging unity and peace within the city.

Promoting the attraction, Derby Cathedral said that Walker’s unique combination of traditional and contemporary art techniques “results in evoking powerful emotion, wonder and awe for the viewer” – and those who have been to see this stunning, limited-time display have expressed their agreement.

“A superb experience evoking peace and contemplation in our wonderful space”

Lord-Lieutenant Elizabeth Fothergill CBE

Lord-Lieutenant Elizabeth Fothergill CBE, the Queen’s Derbyshire representative, said she was “privileged” to visit the exhibit, describing it as “a superb experience evoking peace and contemplation in our wonderful space”. 

Adam Buss, Bid Director for Culture Derby, added that he found sitting in the pews beneath the doves to be “a great place to reflect and recharge”.

The installation is accompanied by a piece of music from composer David Harper, whose previous work includes BBC’s Great British Railway Journeys and Channel Four’s Grand Designs

Titled Ruah Qadeska, which means “holy spirit” in Hebrew, the soundtrack is a string composition in which the notes have been played by manipulating the piano’s strings directly rather than by pressing the keys, making for a very gentle and tranquil sound.

No two peace doves are the same (Credit: Jamie Morris/Mojatu)

A version of Walker and Harper’s Peace Doves project was previously displayed at Liverpool Cathedral in 2021, and has been recreated in Derby with funding from Arts Council England, Westhill Endowment, Cathedral Quarter BID, Derby City Council and Foundation Derbyshire.

Local businesses within the Cathedral Quarter have also decorated their shopfronts with their own peace doves in support of the artwork and its message.

A series of events have been programmed by the cathedral to enrich people’s appreciation of the doves for the remainder of the display, including mindfulness sessions, creative writing workshops, concerts, talks and opportunities to see them illuminated at night.

The peace doves will be at the cathedral until 12th June, and entry is free – so be sure to take the time to see them with your own eyes before they fly away.

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