An Interview with Jan Garside

Jan Garside, with one of her collaborators, John Angus, and the woven book

Jan Garside, with one of her collaborators, John Angus, and the woven book

Jan Garside, a textile artist, recently completed a set of three responses to our research and to the ‘Virtue and Vice’ exhibition at Hardwick Hall. A couple of weeks ago, I sat down with Jan to talk through her inspiration and the challenges of her work, and to learn more about the ‘Drawing Room’ installation. Continue reading

Weaving histories: contemporary textiles at Hardwick Hall


Yesterday, I made another trip to Hardwick Hall to help (well, mainly watch) textile artist Jan Garside and her collaborators install a set of three responses to our research, and to the themes of the ‘Virtue and Vice’ exhibition.

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What’s in a Name? Curating ‘Virtue and Vice’


The first of the four rare painted hangings in the Hardwick Chapel which inspired our exhibition. ©NTPL/John Hammond.

On a visit to Hardwick in the summer of 2011, I encountered two striking textiles. One was a magnificent appliqué hanging depicting ‘Faith and his contrary, in the person of Mahomet’: something I had read about in the inventories Bess made of her three properties in 1601, but never seen. The other was a rare and important painted cloth which illustrates the conversion of St Paul: a theme beloved of artists across Europe during the Renaissance, but which I was surprised to find painted onto fabric in a household chapel. Between them, these two luxurious objects encapsulate many of the obsessions and events of the Elizabethan age. The connections and conversations they make possible inspired the ‘Virtue and Vice’ exhibition. Continue reading

Update: Magdi Allam


Magdi Cristiano Allam, the Egyptian naturalized Italian journalist and convert from Islam to Catholicism profiled in an earlier post, made a new announcement on Monday regarding his religious identity.

In it, Allam announces his formal departure from the Catholic church, saying that “I consider my conversion to Catholicism over,” though he continues to consider himself a Christian “and to proudly identify myself with Christianity as the civilization which more than any other moves man closer to God.”

Behind the timing of this move lay the recent abdication of Benedict XVI, who personally baptized Allam on Easter Sunday in 2008, and the subsequent election of Pope Francis, who has called for greater dialogue with the Islamic world. Continue reading

Alien Encounters as Conversion Parables

An awestruck Jodie Foster.

Over Christmas, before I joined Conversion Narratives, I was familiarising myself with the blog and seeing what I’d be getting myself into (as one does) whilst watching the 1997 film Contact. For those who aren’t familiar with it, Contact is a sci-fi film adaptation of Carl Sagan’s novel of the same name from 1985. The film tracks the first confirmed communication from extraterrestrial beings with a view of reflecting upon the cultural conflict between science and religion, the nature of belief and of faith. Although I will not give away the plot too freely, during the course of the film, its protagonist Ellie Arroway (played by Jodie Foster), a confirmed religious sceptic, experiences her own form of ‘conversion’. This inevitably leads to the truth of her own narrative being questioned and her faith tested.

As I was reading Peter Mazur’s post on Augustine it struck me – and bear with me on this one – that there is a kind of correspondence between the conversion narratives and spiritual journeys under examination by our research project and the narratives of alien encounter films, tenuous though it may be. Continue reading