Artists respond to 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta

By Edward Lowton | 15 June 2015

Artists are inspired by the "magnitude of the legacy" of the Magna Carta

Photo of red lights in front of a door with sunset in background
Squidsoup's new installation at Salisbury Cathedral© Ash Mills
A number of original and thought-provoking art projects are taking place nationwide celebrating the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta this week. 

Lincoln and Salisbury, both cathedral cities holding one of the four surviving copies of the 1215 charter, are marking the anniversary in distinct ways, while Runnymede the water-meadow where King John sealed the Magna Carta, is the site of a specially commissioned artwork.

Salisbury Cathedral

A photo of a girl in school uniform with strings of lights
A girl enjoys the Enlightenment exhibit at Salisbury Cathedral © Ash Mills
From Saturday June 13 2015, two works of art by international digital designers Squidsoup have been installed in Salisbury Cathedral as part of their programme for the historic anniversary.
The first, Enlightenment, inspired by the impact of the Great Charter, fills the cathedral’s north porch with thousands of interactive lights suspended from below the ceiling.

Describing her piece as being "concerned with the idea of the ripple effect of Magna Carta", Jacquiline Creswell, Arts Advisor and Curator, said it was inspired by the way "principles have changed and grown over time to encompass much of the globe. We enter the space and feel the magnitude of the legacy of this important document.”

Photo of two women taking a photo in front of a medieval wall with letters
Visitors take photos of the Power of Words installation at Salisbury Cathedral © Ash Mills
In the second installation, Power of Words, sections of the Magna Carta’s text themed around society and justice are projected onto the north wall of the cathedral’s Morning Chapel. When touched the words shift and change to create new ones.

"The projection explores the power of the words," added Creswell, "the Magna Carta document is not just a historical artefact, it's a contemporary symbol of the power of words, of justice, freedom and accountability."

For a complete listing of the cathedral’s Magna Carta events visit,

Photo of a drawing of a king signing a treaty with knights in armour
19th-century recreation of King John signing the Magna Carta by James William Edmund Doyle © Public Domain
On Sunday June 14, the University of Lincoln launched, a two year-long project for young people aged 14-24 years old which aims to explore the legacy of Magna Carta through art.

“ is a unique opportunity for young people to connect across borders, working with contemporary artists across many genres to give their own interpretation of Magna Carta’s modern day relevance and produce a body of work which will inspire new generations,” says Professor Mary Stuart, Vice Chancellor at the University and Chair of the Lincoln Cultural & Arts Partnership.

Based on a digital platform, the project is supported by commissions from six artists. The first of these, ‘Time for Rights’ by digital artist Tim Kindberg, offers young people the opportunity to upload a six-second video about the human right which is most important to them.

The videos will be published simultaneously as part of a global event on International Youth Day on August 12 2015.

The project will culminate in Lincoln on November 6 2017 marking the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest, with a specially commissioned artwork which aims to act as a new charter communicating the needs of new generation to institutions worldwide.

The Charter of the Forest, the longest-serving statute in England from 1217 until 1971, was a companion document to the Magna Carta. Sealed by King Henry III, it re-established rights of access to the royal forest for freemen.

“Magna Carta is not just a story about medieval barons and kings," added Professor Stuart, "it is about a vision to stand against injustice to shape a better, fairer society.”

To participate in the project visit,


Photo of brass chairs in a field
Hew Locke’s new permanent artwork The Jurors at Runnymede in Surrey© Tom D Morgan
A new permanent artwork by Hew Locke was unveiled at Runnymede, Surrey today in the presence of HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, The Duke of Cambridge, The Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence.

Locke’s new artwork, called The Jurors, reflects how the influence of the Magna Carta has travelled far beyond British shores – with its principles influencing the development of the United States constitution, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and more than a third of the world’s legal systems.

“Runnymede is a beautiful and important historic site, so to create a piece of art here is a real responsibility," says Locke. "Magna Carta reminds us that those in power have it only at our consent.”

The piece consists of 12 bronze chairs, situated in the historic meadow, and decorated with images and symbols relating to past and ongoing struggles for freedom and equal rights.

The images include the Emancipation of the Serfs in 1861 by Tsar Alexander II; Cornelia Sorabji, the first woman to practise law in India; Suffragette Lillie Lenton; and Chinese characters representing the Confucian principles of Ren (humaneness), Li (ritual) and Yi (justice), the core Confucian ideas of how society should be organised.

Photo of a man explaining a chair with tents and flags in the background
Hew Locke with the Duke of Cambridge© Professional Images, Simon Jacobs
“I hope my piece will encourage people to reflect and discuss the legacy and future relevance of Magna Carta across the world,” added Locke.

The Runnymede event, attended by over 3,000 people, included the performance of a specially commissioned dedication written by poet and playwright Owen Sheers.

Visit, for more information.

For more on Magna Carta800 see Culture24's guide to the best Magna Carta exhibitions and locations

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