“Doing the flowers” at Westminster Abbey

Did you know that on special occasions NAFAS “do the flowers” at Westminster Abbey?
Jenny Nye, Area Demonstrator in Kent, Sussex and Surrey, has had the honour of working at the Abbey on a number of occasions. She has kindly written this blog to give an insight into how the process works:

“I have arranged flowers at the Abbey several times over the last few years, having done the Quire and a Pedestal at the Altar. Recent events have included the memorial service for Stephen Hawkins, where his ashes were laid under a stone in the nave of the Abbey, and the Service of Thanksgiving to mark the 70th Anniversary of the Landing of the Windrush:

A well organised process

westminster-abbey-quire
Arrangement in the Quire for the Windrush Service of Thanksgiving, June 2018, Jenny Nye

The flower arrangement process at the Abbey is very well organised. NAFAS has a Westminster Abbey Coordinator, currently a Surrey lady who has been in the role for 10 years. At the end of this year, two Kent ladies will be taking over.

Being the Coordinator is a big commitment: firstly, they contact Area Chairs from areas surrounding London to request helpers. These Chairs will invite area members to take part, usually, two pairs of arrangers to work on either the Quire stalls or the Altar. Each person in the pair will create an arrangement.

On the day it’s a very early start for the Coordinator, who will be on site at the Abbey to sort the flowers and prepare for the arrival of the arrangers.

All the flowers and some foliage are provided by the Abbey. These are delivered first thing on the day fresh from the nearby Covent Garden Market. It is such a pleasure to have an abundance of lovely flowers to work with.

Arrangers bring their tools and filler foliage and arrive from 9 am. Designed must be finished by 12.30pm at the latest, so the pressure is on!

A privileged role

One has to be very careful when working at the Altar, as the Cosmati mosaic pavement in front is very fragile. The pavement was originally laid down in 1268 on the order of Henry III, and very few people are permitted to walk on it. It’s a wonderful privilege to be able to see it close up.

The Quire arrangement, which is on a raised platform, is quite an entertaining location. Listening to the Guides giving talks to their groups as the hundreds of visitors pass through improves one’s knowledge no end!

Short Saint Day services are also held in the Chapel of Edward the Confessor whilst we work on the flower arrangements. Due to its small area size, the chapel is not generally open to the public, so I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to spend time there.

On my most recent visit to the Abbey, we were able to visit the newly opened Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries. This latest addition to the Abbey’s treasures provides a bird’s-eye view looking down into the Abbey from high above. It's a wonderful experience and I would highly recommend a visit.

There is a very special atmosphere in the Abbey and it is a real pleasure to have the opportunity to be there “doing the flowers”!”

Many thanks, Jenny for this interesting and illuminating blog post.

 

Where to find Sevenoaks Flower Club

We have recently moved to Otford Village Hall. Which has great facilities, regular public transport and ample parking.

For more information contact Genista Spencer at NAFAS (Kent) on 01227 732008.

So what are you waiting for? Join us at one of our monthly events we'd love to see you!

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