Published on Wednesday 08 March 2017

Kate Hickmott interview

The Cluniac network is before all women and men who sustain it ! Kate Hickmott, from Brighton, England, works closely with Lewes and Dudley Cluniac sites and is very active in our network. She tells us about "her" Cluny, her vision, her work...

According to you Kate, why is it important to awake young generation to Cluniac epic ?

I think the most important and incredible thing about the Cluniac network is that it existed for over 500 years across such a wide geographical area. This is an important concept for young people to understand as we have many long term global issues to face today such as poverty and climate change. Like the Cluniacs we have it in our grasp to embark on projects that last long term over a large area.

The Cluniac network challenges our ideas that 1000 years ago people lived a very « local » life. There were strong links between Cluny and its dependencies and people travelled long distances. Even within a country like Great Britain there were links between the south of England (Lewes), the Midlands (Dudley and Much Wenlock) , the North (Barnsley and Pontefract) and Scotland (Paisley). We need to re-establish and strengthen these links today. It is wonderful to feel part of such a wide European network and young people today crave that sense of belonging. We are all stronger when we unite.

The Cluniacs were instrumental in promoting the extraordinary skills of craftspeople, architects, stone carvers and stained glass window makers. Their constructions were huge even by today’s standards and show what beauty and excellence can be achieved with vision and will. These lessons are as valid today as they were in the past. Young people today need to understand their history in a local, national and international context and the Cluniac network provides the perfect framework for this. We all feel a strong sense of isolation in modern times and exploring and valuing the pan-European links of the Cluniac network can act as a potent answer to these concerns.

Kate, you are part of Cluny Kids project of the de la Federation. Could you detail some actions you carry out with children ?

At Lewes Priory we first concentrated on explaining the local significance of the Priory to local school children.

Children in Lewes have little understanding of the lives of monks and the layout of a monastery with all that was required in monastic daily life. In order to explain these in a fun way we devised a board game - A Monk’s Life- where monk figures move around the Priory completing a series of tasks. We also have an audio drama- performed by actors- that brings to life the jobs that servants at the Priory would have done.

We run on-site workshops on various aspects of monastic life- making herb ointments and teas; maths exercises measuring areas of the Priory; mapping and compass exercises looking at the layout of the Priory. We work with teachers to devise activities that they require and that complement the work they are doing with their students.

Cluny Kids is such an exciting project as we are able to exchange resources between countries and begin to devise resources that reflect the pan-European nature of the Cluniac network.

Kate Hickmott