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13 Aug 2019
Helter-skelter ride installed inside Norwich Cathedral
By Andy Knaggs
Helter-skelter ride installed inside Norwich Cathedral
The helter-skelter was built in 1947 and has been rented from Chipperfield's Circus

A 55-ft (16.8m) helter-skelter ride set up in the nave of Norwich Cathedral in England, will give visitors a new perspective on the historic building, say cathedral bosses.

The ride is a temporary installation and has been built by Irvin Leisure as part of the Cathedral's Seeing It Differently project, which runs until Sunday 18 August. Through it, the church wants to open up conversations about faith.

The church is charging £2 per person to ride the helter-skelter, although other aspects of the project – which includes lying down on the floor and looking up at the ceiling, taking part in an ancient spiritual practice, and a blind "trust" trail around the Cloisters – are free of charge.

A viewing platform at 40ft (12.2m) will give visitors the chance to look much more closely than would normally be possible at the near 600-year-old roof bosses, which are found at the points where the ribs of the cathedral roof join. The roof stands 69ft (21m) high.

The cathedral is asking participants to share their experiences of Seeing it Differently via social media, using the hashtag #SeeingItDifferently and tagging Norwich Cathedral on social media channels.

Writing in a blog post on the cathedral's website, the Rev Canon Bryant said: "I get why for some the image of a giant helter-skelter sitting in this great nave feels slightly shocking. It does provoke and it begs the question, what is this space for? The walls of this great building have seen many things through their 900 years and I suspect will take this latest arrival in their stride.

"But climbing 50ft above the nave floor will help us see this space differently, it will give us a new perspective. It is precisely because it is not what we usually do that it can speak to us, challenge us and invite us to see the space differently and to see ourselves and one another differently, even God differently.

"Can we, dare we, open ourselves up to approach familiar things differently, to see the world through other people’s eyes and from their experiences? Can we allow ourselves to be searched by fresh understanding and insight?"

Henry Chipperfield of Irvin Leisure commented: "Even though we have been all over the world, as a unique venue the Cathedral is in a category of its own. As far as I know, this is the first time a helter-skelter has ever been in a Cathedral."

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