Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis has become the first patron of the New Room in Bristol – otherwise known as John Wesley’s Chapel – the oldest Methodist building in the world.
Michael visited the New Room after the completion of its multi-million pound Heritage Lottery-funded redevelopment last year and was very impressed by its new visitor centre, particularly the state-of-the-art museum.
Michael Eavis said: “How can I not be absolutely thrilled to be asked to be Patron of this beautiful building, the cradle of ideas that had such influence on promoting unprecedented social and religious change, contributing so much to our national heritage?
“I have been associated with Methodism my whole life and every week I attend a Methodist chapel service in my home village of Pilton. I must admit though that what I enjoy the most is the singing of those marvellous Wesley hymns. But then there’s the more serious side of why we all need to reflect on our life’s purpose and the strong desire to praise our creator.
“From a historical perspective just look at the incredible difference that the message of the Wesley brothers made to the lives of millions of working-class Britons. They offered them hope and a social agenda to improve working conditions on a par with what we’re aspiring to today.
“Many historians claim that the growth of Methodism probably prevented a revolution in this country at the time when revolutions in Europe were catching on like wildfire.
“Just imagine that all of this started in this little chapel in Bristol known as the New Room 300 years ago and now has a worldwide following of over 75 million people.”
The museum – arguably the star of the new visitor centre – has been praised by visitors for the vivid way it brings to life the Wesleys’ campaign for social justice, a cause very close to Michael Eavis’s heart. It includes the story of their brave and controversial opposition to slavery in a period when Bristol was still a major centre for the slave trade.
New Room director, David Worthington, said: “Michael’s affiliation to Methodism and his ongoing commitment to social justice made him an ideal candidate for the newly-created position of patron of the New Room.
“The trustees warmly welcome Michael to his new role and thank him for his commitment to our ongoing work and ministry.”
Michael Eavis is just one of 36,000 people from across the world who have been to the New Room’s visitor centre since it opened in May 2017.
The historic chapel continues to stage a wide range of events – including concerts, talks and services – and a variety of community initiatives take place within the new visitor centre. The New Room also regularly hosts collaborative projects with like-minded organisations such as the Fairtrade Foundation, Bristol Festival of Ideas, and Bristol Refugee Week.