Amazing Grace 250

This site is an initial introduction to the Amazing Grace 250 Project and will grow and evolve as the programme is confirmed and developed

Amazing Grace 250 - The Countdown Begins

All eyes are set to be on Olney from July 2022 to July 2023, when the town will be at the centre of commemorations to mark the 250th anniversary of one of the world’s most beloved hymns, ‘Amazing Grace’.

Composed by the Reverend John Newton in the weeks leading up to his New Year’s Day service at St Peter & St Paul Church on 1st January 1773, the hymn – in various different musical styles – has gone on to inspire countless people and has even become known in America as the nation’s “spiritual anthem”.

‘A part of the reason I think that it somehow met the moment was because not only is it a beautiful song, but it also captures this unifying element in America represented in its music.  You’ve got an old-world English hymn that has been used by everybody, in every church, all across this country. White churches, Black churches, the Black gospel tradition has transformed it. And it spoke then to the fact that underneath even a tragedy like this, there’s something that is there for all of us. Something that we share.’

Barack Obama talks about why he chose to sing Amazing Grace at the funeral in Charleston after the shootings there in 2015
Renegades: Born in the USA – 26 Oct. 2021 by Barack Obama (Author), Bruce Springsteen (Author)

Amazing Grace 250: A Diverse Legacy

Amazing Grace:Legacies at 250

The Amazing Grace 250: A Diverse Legacy project was created in consultation and collaboration with people across Olney and Milton Keynes.

Special thanks to AG250 partners, the Open University, the Friends of the Caribbean-MK, the Stables music venue, the African Diaspora Federation–MK, Olney Town Council, the African and Caribbean Arts & Heritage Union-MK, the Sierra Leone Committee-MK, Milton Keynes Council, St Peter & St Paul Church, Olney and Arts & Heritage Alliance-MK

If you are looking to book a Group Visit, you will find your information on our Group Visit page

If you would like to visit St Peter & St Paul,  John Newton’s church, book with them directly using this link 

Amazing Grace and its legacies: reflections at 250 @ The Open University

Friday 15 July 2022, The Open University

The Open University presents a day of academic papers reflecting on different aspects of the history, meanings and legacies of ‘Amazing Grace’. Scholars from music, history, literature and religious studies explore the origins of the hymn, the growth of its popularity, and its cultural impact and influence around the world.

You are able to find the full programme by following this link to the Open University Programme page.

You are able to book your tickets via this link

For more details, contact Dr Martin Clarke, amazing-grace@open.ac.uk

Amazing Grace: Legacies at 250 

10.30 – 5.00 Saturday 16th July 2022

at St Peter & St Paul, Olney
with Cowper & Newton Museum – St Peter & St Paul – the Open University

 Keynote speakers

Dr Bruce Hindmarsh, Professor of Spiritual Theology; Professor of the History of Christianity, Regent College, Vancouver 

Dr Antony Reddie, Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture 

Q&A Round table to be chaired by Rev Jonathan Aitken, author, broadcaster, columnist, lecturer and campaigner for prison reform

Piano Recital by Alexander Douglas: ‘A Sacred Journey: From the Olney Hymns to the Antebellum South’

Stalls & Books

You are able to find the full programme by following this link.

You are able to book your tickets via this link

Amazing Grace 250 Concert

7:30pm Sunday 17th July 2022

An evening concert at the church to mark the start of our year of celebration. The concert features Olney Brass, the newly-formed Sweet Sounds Gospel Choir conducted by Craig McLeish, and a combined choir from the churches of Olney

Doors open at 7:00pm

Tickets are £15 each, and include a glass of wine or a soft drink – contact the church office to book your tickets

Jon Bickley and the Invisible Folk Club Band

Folk Tradition and the Olney Hymns 

Saturday afternoon 27th August 2022 in the Museum Gardens & Courtyard

Usual admission charges apply

Renowned folk singer and composer Jon Bickley and the Invisible Folk Club Band featuring the popular folk and jazz singer Annette Burrows, the revered guitarist Bob Templeman and virtuoso violinist Diana Stone will be performing a number of concerts in the Olney area which will include Amazing Grace and the Olney Hymns.

“refreshingly original, good textures and harmonies, good heart and humour”,  Irish Music Magazine

“a fine songwriter . . . . well crafted songs” , RnR

“a kind of communion with the landscape”,  Sunday Times

Sierra Leone

Dec 2022 – March 2023

An exhibition of the art and culture of Sierra Leone

Curated by the Sierra Leone Community and the Olney-Newton Link

Amazing Grace Community Quilt

Members of the United Reformed Church, Olney are leading a community-based project to create a quilt for the 250th Anniversary of the writing of the hymn, ‘Amazing Grace’, in Olney. The design of the quilt reflects an original quilt from the 1770s, using a similar colour scheme & picking out the English paper pieced hexagons in the design of “grandmother’s garden”. Central to the design is the first verse of ‘Amazing Grace’, written in the original font style.
URC would like as many people as possible from the community to be involved. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, an individual or member of a group, if you are interested in joining the mass sew, please contact Janette on Tel: 07769 663633 or by email: Janetteelainehopkins@gmail.com
Once finished the quilt will be available to be displayed in venues around Olney & events around the World. Let’s hope it can travel nearly as far as the hymn itself.

Olney Community Orchard plans come to fruition

A new Community Orchard is set to be opened as part of the Amazing Grace 250-year commemorations throughout 2022 and 2023.

In December 2019, ‘Growing Minds in Olney’, a team of local horticultural experts; enthusiasts and volunteers, were granted permission by the Olney Town Council to create a heritage community orchard now to be located at the lower southerly end of the Allotment Field.

 Over 50 local residents have sponsored the fruit trees, including apple, pear and cherry varieties. The trees have historical links to the Cowper & Newton Museum gardens and local Buckinghamshire heritage.

The orchard will be a calm and welcoming green space, open to anyone to come and enjoy. Residents will be able to help themselves to fresh fruit straight from the tree. Any surplus would be collected and shared with the community, in various forms including jams and juices, and who knows even cider or mead?

The hope is that the orchard will become a much-loved asset of Olney, with plans for it to be included in the Olney Circular Walk and Heritage Trail.  As well as being an additional habitat for wildlife, the orchard will also be place of local celebration for generations to come, connecting different groups in our community with events like Apples Days and wassailing ceremonies.

If you would like to get involved with this project, please contact growingmindsinolney@gmail.com or visit the Amazing Grace Community Orchard Facebook page and join one of the planting events. https://www.facebook.com/Amazing-Grace-Community-Orchard-100913732522820)

Other Planned Activity

  • A new improved museum display curated with assistance from Museumand (the social history museum which celebrates the contribution of Caribbean life to the UK), and the African and Caribbean communities
  •  ‘Amazing Grace’ exhibition materials which will be available to use by schools, libraries, museums, churches etc.
  • Online exhibition 
  • Learning programme made available online
  • A Youth Cabinet and Conference in Olney
  • Talk, Discuss, Seminar programme 
  • Outreach activities at Partner events

Explore virtually the Olney of John Newton & William Cowper.  See inside Rev John Newton’s church of St Peter & St Paul.  

Click on the arrow to start the virtual tour, then use the scroll bar to the right within the tour to find the Start button.

Click on the speaker symbol top right of the virtual tour to hear ‘Amazing Grace’ performed and recorded by Hannah Layton Turner of local musical collective Hannah’s Yard in Olney, Bucks, the English hometown of Amazing Grace. (CD available from our online shop

Page from the first edition of the Olney Hymns hymn book showing the first verse of Faith's Review and Expectation now known by its first line as Amazing Grace

Interested in finding out more about the hymn Amazing Grace?

Visit our Amazing Grace page on the website

Watch this tv programme by Rick Wakeman from a link on our Learning Programme page

Resources for faith services from The John Newton Project website

The Alina Orchestra String Quartet and Multi-faith soloists in MK

Performed as part of the ‘Great Get-Together Iftar’ in Milton Keynes, String musicians from Alina Orchestra worked closely with members of the community of Milton Keynes to create this very special version of ‘Amazing Grace’ sung in English, Arabic and Hebrew.

Explore the Chasanoff/Elozua “Amazing Grace” Collection at the Library of Congress which holds more than 3000 published recorded performances of the hymn “Amazing Grace” by different individual musicians or musical ensembles.

Join the Commemoration

If you are holding your own event as part of the  Amazing Grace 250 year, you are able to add it to the AG250 online calendar on the Visit Olney website.  There you will be able to check out the events already added.

If you have an idea for Amazing Grace 250, or would like to offer support for the anniversary preparations, please email the event team by using our dedicated email olneyag250@yahoo.com

Find out more about the history of Amazing Grace and how it came to be written in Olney on our Amazing Grace page.

1st January 2023

Will you be singing ‘Amazing Grace’ on this day? Are you looking for more information to help you with your preparations?

If you can’t find what you are looking for on our Amazing Grace page, do get in touch with us olneyag250@yahoo.com

 

Calling all Amazing Graces

Is your name Grace, or do you know a Grace living in Olney or the surrounding area? If so, the organisers of the upcoming commemorations to mark the 250th anniversary of the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ would like to hear from you!

The Amazing Grace 250 team are calling on the local community to help celebrate the history and ongoing power of the Reverend John Newton’s famous song – composed in the weeks leading up to his New Year’s Day service at St Peter & St Paul Church on 1st January 1773 – in as many imaginative ways as possible.

As part of the plans, the Cowper & Newton Museum has joined with the Phonebox to tell the stories of some real-life Graces. If you are a Grace, and would like to be involved, send an email to olneyag250@yahoo.com with a photo and short (50-word) description of yourself.
A group of Graces will be invited along to tea at the museum later this year – with the Phonebox also coming along to take photos and hear about the Graces’ lives.

The same email address can be used by anyone who has an idea of their own for commemorating the anniversary – even if your name isn’t Grace!

We are delighted to share our first Grace with everyone from Kieran and Stephen Gould.

‘Our cousin, Grace Finn, defied all the odds when she was born in Boston in July 2018. Her mum, Jessica, had a very rare complication with a molar pregnancy in the womb alongside the healthy baby. The pregnancy was extremely high-risk for both Jessica and Grace and for that reason her parents called her “Amazing Grace” upon her arrival.

We sent gifts to our cousin from the Cowper and Newton Museum to explain our town’s connection with Amazing Grace. In July 2019 we travelled to Boston and spent the 4th of July with our American cousins including Grace who is truly amazing.’

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Book Museum Tickets

Our Museum building remains CLOSED.  We are opening our gardens on limited entry.  The Cowper & Newton Museum gardens will be open to welcome you on Wednesday 5th August 10.30 – 12.15 and Saturday 8th August 10.30 – 12.15

(Follow our social media accounts or check back here for further opening days & times as they become available)