Shakespeare and Olympics inspire cathedral's floral festival

Mig Kimpton has just been awarded a Silver-Gilt at the Chelsea Flower Show for his floral Olympic torch and he has something just as beautiful in store for Southwark Cathedral's floral festival this August.

The multi-award winning designer is the artistic director of the Festival of Flowers and has commissioned wildly ambitious yet exquisite works of contemporary floral art from 75 top class designers.

The Festival of Flowers will offer visitors to London a haven of tranquility and beauty between the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Avant-garde masterpieces depicting William Shakespeare, a ‘walk through’ Olympic Stadium and Kimpton's giant ‘moving’ eye are just some of the displays that will be created through the medium of flowers.

The Festival of Flowers takes place from 23 to 26 August, and is being hosted by The Leprosy Mission.

The theme binding the displays together is 'transformation', which aptly reflects the international development charity's work in helping millions of leprosy sufferers worldwide to live a fulfilled life in spite of the condition.

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.

At eight feet high and 12 feet wide, it is little wonder Kimpton has chosen to name his showpiece at the festival the Eye of Wonder.

The display 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.

He 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.

Elze, 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.”

The creative flower director at Salisbury Cathedral, Michael Bowyer, will recreate the Olympic Stadium in flowers.

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.”

Lisa-Jayne Lewis, The Leprosy Mission's area coordinator for the South East, had the idea for the Festival of Flowers after qualifying as a National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies demonstrator in 2009.

She 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.”