Peter Tyas talks about the Magna Carta’s 800th birthday

(c) Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Wiltshire will mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta like no other county in England. On the 15th of June community groups from across the county will gather in Salisbury to perform in a community pageant celebrating the diversity and creativity of the county. The pageant will bring the streets of Salisbury to life with a carnival of colour and music as Wiltshire celebrates the birth of our nation’s present day liberties 800 years on from the sealing of the Magna Carta.

The celebrations will take place eight centuries to the day since King John met the group of rebel barons at Runnymede and consented to a series of promises for new civic liberties ranging from the protection of church rights to access to swift and fair justice. The community pageant will bring a new great charter to the city, this time the clauses will have been written by the community and express the values and principles that each group have brought forward to reflect what a modern day magna carta would say about the society that we want to live in today.

The spirits of the barons will be reborn in the guise of a series of larger-than-life puppets, representing the diverse communities that make up Wiltshire. The barons will be paraded through the city from the Market Square to the Cathedral, which itself plays host to the most intact copy of the Magna Carta in existence.

There is a broader programme of creative activities taking place in Salisbury around the anniversary date. For a full list please see the Cathedrals events page or download their Magna Carta programme. Later in the month the Salisbury Playhouse will present Clause 39 and later in the year the Playhouse will present an evening of short plays by leading playwrights called The Magna Carta plays.

Peter Tyas, Head of Arts and Archives, Wiltshire Council

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