Lindisfarne Gospels success as loans to North East back on agenda

Tuesday 24 March 2009

At a meeting today in Westminster chaired by Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, parliamentarians campaigning for the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to the North East were given good news by the British Library.  A new report into the condition of the historic Gospels has today been discussed by the British Library board.  The Independent Expert Review Group conducting the condition report has concluded that the Lindisfarne Gospels could be loaned to the North East on a temporary but on-going basis.

The meeting in Westminster was attended by Sir Colin Lucas, Chairman of the British Library; Sir Kenneth Calman, member of the board of the British Library and former Vice-Chancellor of Durham University; the Rt Hon Nick Brown, Regional Minister for the North East; Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, Deputy Regional Minister for the North East; Baroness Joyce Quinn, a long-time campaigner for the return of the Gospels; and Sharon Hodgson, MP for Gateshead East and Washington West and a member of the newly-formed North East regional Select Committee.

The Experts Group’s report gave two options for the British Library board to consider.  A) That the Lindisfarne Gospels are never lent or B) That the manuscript should be lent for periods no greater than 3 months at intervals of not less than 7 years.  The British Library Board today agreed to adopt the second position.

The Parliamentary group’s consensus was that Durham would be the ideal location for the exhibition of the Gospels.

 In addition, the Board representatives at the meeting discussed other ways British Library materials could be loaned to the North East for cultural or economic development purposes.

The group broadly welcomed this step forward as well as the more positive approach adopted by the British Library generally and the desire to have an on-going dialogue with the region about future loans, but nevertheless emphasised that the long-term campaign to have the Gospels re-located to the North East on a more or less permanent basis would continue.

Roberta Blackman-Woods MP said,

“I very much welcome today’s announcement by the British Library and the outcome of the condition survey.  We have been campaigning for the return of the Gospels on at least a part-time basis for many years and I am pleased by the positive approach adopted by the British Library.

“The Library also made it clear that they are happy to continue negotiations on future lending with MPs and I am sure this is something we will come back to.

“I would, of course, be delighted if the Gospels could be accommodated in appropriate conditions in Durham University or Durham Cathedral.”

Nick Brown MP said,

“It was a good meeting.  It is important that we understand each other’s positions.  We should seek agreement where we can get it.  I regard this as a step forward.”

Joyce Quin said,

“It is very good that the Gospels will be seen in our region again, but our goal remains for them to be there permanently, so that they are part of the future of our region as well as of its past.”

Sharon Hodgson MP said,

“I am glad that we have successfully managed to turn the page on those who said the gospels must stay locked up in London and convince the British Library that the people of the North East deserve to see these literary treasurers for themselves, back where they belong.

“We have been able to speak with one voice as a region and this has been recognised.  I know that the last time the Gospels were up here the queues stretched right around the block and I expect to see the same thing happen this time.  

“We should grasp this opportunity to share a part of our past with those children and young people who wouldn’t have seen them in London.  We won’t stop pushing for a more permanent return but this a definite step in the right direction.”


Press Release issued by the Office of Roberta Blackman-Woods MP