All posts by Mark Dean

Creative Nun’s Call for Artists

Explore the Divine and Faith Through Art

Are you a visual artist with Christian faith looking to embark on a unique creative journey? Join us in a groundbreaking project that delves into the very essence of faith and the divine, and how these concepts are expressed through art.

About the Project:

We invite passionate visual artists to collaborate on a research project that seeks to understand and explore the imagery associated with the ‘divine’ and ‘faith’ in the lives of practising Christian adults. This project transcends the boundaries of traditional theology by bridging the worlds of art, spirituality, and cognitive science.

Why You Should Join:

Creative Freedom: You’ll have the opportunity to push the boundaries of your artistic expression and imagination.
Interdisciplinary Exploration: Engage in a unique blend of theology, visual arts, and cognitive science, contributing to the development of these fields.
Exhibition: Your artwork will be publicly displayed in an art exhibition, offering you exposure and recognition.
Inspiration: Work closely with researchers and fellow artists to gain new perspectives and insights.

Who Can Apply:

We welcome visual artists based in the UK with a portfolio of artwork created within the last two years. Whether you’re an experienced artist or emerging talent, your creativity, imagination and willingness to collaborate on this research are what truly matter.

How to Apply:

If you’re passionate about exploring the intersection of faith, art, and personal identity, we want to hear from you. In an online application, you will provide the following details:
Contact information
Preferred art technique
Christian denomination (if any)
Years of practice
Availability to commit to the project for a month or less (about 7 hours/week)


Your participation in this year-long project will involve a month-long intensive collaboration with two in-depth interviews (at the beginning and the end of the month) when you will work on an artwork. During the art practice, you will be ask to do self-observation of your creative and cognitive processes, concluded by final critical analysis with the investigator. The collaboration will be culminating in a public exhibition of your work in September or October 2024.


You will receive an honorarium of £250 to cover your expenses for artwork production, with an initial payment of £50 (after the first interview) and the remainder upon delivery of the artwork (after the second interview). The artwork stays in your possession; however, the visual documentation of your work will be shared with the investigator for research purposes. Also, you will lend the artwork for a public exhibition at the end of the research project.

Application Deadline:

Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis. Individual interviews and work will commence in March and April 2024. We encourage all prospective candidates to register their interest at their earliest convenience to ensure they are considered for the project collaboration.

More at the project webpage:

Direct link to the call:

Pancake Daze

In previous years the chaplaincy has served pancakes in the Parade Ground at Chelsea on Shrove Tuesday. Unfortanately we are unable to do so this year, so we are making it an extra-moveable feast and translating our pancake day to Thursday 11 April.  In the meantime if you would like to make your own pancakes, here is our original recipe (for thin pancakes use plain flour and double the milk)

recipe credit: Barbara Dean
image credit: Leanne Grice


by LCC student Yuxuan Wang

For those of us who don’t know, Can you tell us a bit about what Ramadan is all about?

Generally, Ramadan is a month for fasting, prayer and reflection, and more importantly, helping others. Traditionally, people believe that doing good things during this period could help us to multiply the spiritual rewards. However, nowadays, I don’t think there are as many people as it used to be in the old days who believe in spiritual rewards, especially the young generation. For us, it is more like an identity-recognition activity and a good opportunity to help others.

What does it mean to you, and what’s the most rewarding and most challenging aspect to Ramadan?

The meaning of Ramadan to me changes during the different stages of my life. When I was a kid I was living in a Muslim community, where everyone did the same thing during Ramadan. In this way, I can only say it is naturally a part of life. When I become older and move to other places I started to realise some people don’t do it and it is perfectly fine. This is quite a shocking observation for me at that time. Since then Ramadan became a part of my identity. I could still have a connection to my Muslim brothers and sisters through fasting, having a great dinner after sunset or giving food to the poor together. I think the most rewarding aspect is the good feeling of giving. When I could offer some people in need some food or cloth, I would get a great sense of satisfaction. The most challenging part, for me, is not drinking water for the whole day, especially when Ramadan is in the hot summer.

Are there any practices in Ramadan that non-Muslims could implement into their lives, and how might it be beneficial?

Personally, I would not advise anyone to fast and abstain from food and water without medical advice, as this may cause some health problems. For those non-Muslims, I think helping those in need and hospitality to neighbours is worthwhile to try. Setting a regular time each year to deliver food and clothing to the poor will be easier to do than volunteering regularly. Meanwhile, being able to entertain family, friends and neighbours will give you lots of love and warmth.



by Meeno Chawla, UAL Sikh Faith Advisor

Vaisakhi, also known as Baisakhi is the new year, which signifies the Spring harvest festival and the formation of the ‘Khalsa’.  Vaisakhi is an important day for Sikhs, which takes place this year on Thursday 14 April. Around this time a procession usually takes place called the ‘Nagar Kirtan’. ‘Nagar’ means neighbourhood and ‘kirtan’ means hymns. This involves many Sikhs coming together and walking through the local area, singing hymns and spreading the lord’s message.

To give you an idea of the Nagar Kirtan and its importance to Sikhism, I will explain the history of Vaisakhi. Guru Gobind Singh Ji is the tenth Guru of Sikhism and in 1699, the Guru chose five fearless individuals to lead the ‘Khalsa Panth’ who are called the ‘Panj Piyare’ (five beloved ones). The Panj Piyare from my local Gurdwara lead the Nagar Kirtan and are dressed in saffron colour attire. This is followed by Sikh holy book called Guru Granth Sahib Ji, an embodiment of a living Guru which is placed on a float and worshippers can pay their respects during the procession. Volunteers come together to prepare food and drink called the Parshad or Langar for the event and assist with making sure the streets are kept cleaned. This procession brings together the whole Sikh community.

image credit: Panj Piyare at the Gurdwara, by Meeno Chawla

On Vaisakhi, I usually go to the Gurdwara with my parents. We listen to hymns and prayers and remember the birth of the Khalsa. It is important to remember the sacrifices our Gurus made and how their teachings should be embedded in our daily lives.

The Nishan Sahib (orange flag hoisted at all Gurdwaras) is cleaned and replaced by the Sikh community on Vaisakhi, which is significant in showing new beginnings. My Grandfather represented the Panj Piyare, as seen in the photo below:

image credit: Meeno's grandfather at the Gurdwara, reading the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, by Meeno Chawla

On Vaisakhi, those who would like to be a part of the Khalsa are baptised by the Panj Piyare, who prepare Amrit (holy water) with water and sugar. Prayers are said whilst the Panj Piyare stir the water with the double-edged sword. Those being baptised wear the 5ks, which are Kesh (uncut hair), Kara (steel bangle), Kanga (wooden comb), Kachera (cotton underwear) and Kirpan (steel sword).

image credit: Panj Piyare, by Meeno Chawla

They will drink the holy water and it is sprinkled on their head whilst they recite the Mool Mantra, which is the opening verse in the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, as follows:

There is only one God Ik onkar
Eternal truth is his name Sat Nam
He is the creator Kurtah Purakh
Without fear Nir Bhau
Without hate Nir Vair
Immortal without form Akaal Moorat
Beyond birth and death Ajooni
Self-existent Saibhang
By the Guru’s grace Gurprasaad

It feels amazing to attend the Nagar Kirtan and collectively walk across town with the community to celebrate the birth of the Khalsa.

image credit: Nagar Kirtan, by Meeno Chawla
image credit: Meeno Chawla (centre) at Nagar Kirtan with the founder of 'Khalsa Aid'


by Stephen Brown, UAL counsellor

For those of us who don’t know, can you tell us a bit about what Passover is all about?

Here’s my semi-accurate take on the Passover (Hebrew name, Pesach), story. Stand by: it’s brutal! Since Joseph brought his family’s flocks to Egypt in search of food in times of famine, as the bible story in Exodus tells us, over the course about four hundred years things had been getting worse for the Israelites as they grew more numerous and the Pharaohs started to worry they’d get overtaken by immigrants. The Hebrews became both ensconced and, ultimately, enslaved. Things reached a crisis when Pharoah ordered the Hebrew midwives to murder the male newborn infants, but this plan was foiled by the midwives claiming that the Hebrew women delivered their sons too quickly for them to carry out their murderous task. Meanwhile, Moses is born and hidden from the danger in the famous waterproofed cradle in which he floats down the Nile and is picked up by Pharaoh’s daughter… he’s raised as a royal son, but it all goes pear-shaped when his violent temper gets the better of him and he murders an Egyptian task-master who is beating up a recalcitrant Hebrew slave. He goes into hiding and, along the way, witnesses God in the burning bush and is told of his destiny to liberate the Hebrew people. Via signs and wonders, ten plagues and a monotonous refusal by Pharaoh to respond positively to Moses’s famous plea to “Let my people go”, God finally brings down the darkest plague of all: the slaying of the Egyptian firstborn at midnight, passing over (Passover) the houses of the Hebrews – Pharaoh himself being the only firstborn Egyptian in the land to survive, in order to bear witness, and to cry out in agony. In the aftermath of horror, the Children of Israel, numbering around 600,000 people, make their escape, without a clue where they’re going, simply trusting Moses, who parts the Red Sea and they cross into the Sinai wilderness as the pursuing Egyptian chariots are engulfed by the returning waves. The women, led by Moses’s sister Miriam sing a famous song of victory, celebrating God’s might.
Passover is the foundation myth of the Jewish people: from here we go on to receive the Ten Commandments and all of Jewish law. Every year we have a family meal called the Seder (Order) which tells this story via a reading of the Haggadah, some beautifully illuminated mediaeval versions of which are in the British Library. Passover is an eight-day festival where we remember this story and we don’t eat any bread or products leavened by yeast, which commemorates the hurry in which the Hebrews had to depart, without time for the dough of their bread to rise. Pesach in a nutshell? “They tried to kill us. They failed. Let’s eat!”

What does it mean to you personally, and what’s the most rewarding and most challenging aspect to Passover?

Passover means family getting together with love and lots of shouting!
Most rewarding? Thinking about the meaning of freedom and contextualizing that in the present.
Most challenging? Laying off the sourdough toast for eight days!

Are there any elements of the Passover that those from a non-Jewish background can implement into their lives?

Freedom from oppressive rulers and slavery … relevant, urgent and essential now as much as then…


image credit: Mausoleum of Galla Placidia by Petar Milošević 

What is Easter?

Easter is the central Christian festival, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the story of which is told in the four gospels of the New Testament. The 40 day period before Easter is called Lent, a time of reflection and penitence, when many people give something up (eg alcohol or chocolate) or take something up (eg reading or meditation) as a spiritual discipline. The last week of Lent is known as Holy Week, and includes Maundy Thursday, when at the Last Supper Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, and Good Friday, on which the Crucifixion took place. Easter begins on the Sunday of Holy Week, and last for 50 days, from Easter Day to the day of Pentecost, when according to the Bible, the Holy Spirit was sent to the followers of Jesus.

When is it?

Easter is a ‘moveable feast’ — that is, the dates change from year to year, depending on the lunar as well as the solar calendar. Jesus and his original disciples were Jewish, and the Gospels tell us that the events of Easter took place during the Jewish festival of Passover, or Pesach, which is also a moveable feast, and from which the original (Greek and Latin) name for Easter, Pascha, is derived. Parts of the Eastern Orthodox church use a different calendar to calculate their religious festivals, and so this year, for example, Easter Day for most Orthodox churches is on the 5th May, five weeks later than most of those in the Western Church.

Who celebrates/observes Easter?

About one third of the world’s population, about 2.4 billion people, are Christian, and therefore observe Easter as the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus, which offers the promise of eternal life for the followers of Christ. Easter is also now a secular holiday in many countries, with the Easter bunny being a popular symbol for this Spring festival.

How might it be observed?

Easter, along with Christmas, is one of the busiest days in churches, and many Christians also attend additional services during Holy Week. On Good Friday, churches are often stripped of decoration, and solemn silence is kept at the hour of Jesus’ death. An all-night vigil may be held over Saturday night, before the Easter fire is lit early on Sunday morning, and a dawn Eucharist is held. Easter egg hunts are a popular game for children after the main Sunday service, which is a joyful occasion, with the church now decorated with flowers. Families often gather together for Easter, perhaps sharing a traditional lunch of roast lamb.

How to be considerate of those celebrating/observing Easter

Because university term dates have historically been organised around the festivals of Christmas and Easter, which are also national holidays, there may be less difficulty for those who observe these festivals than may be faced by people of other faiths. However, as noted above, many Eastern Orthodox churches will be celebrating Easter in May this year, so that Holy Week and Easter for students and staff from Greece, Russia, Ukraine, etc, will fall during the summer term, and this may be a particularly poignant time for those whose families back home are affected by war.


Happy Chanukah

The days are drawing in. It feels awful to look out the window at 3pm and already see the darkness creeping across our world. No wonder our ancestors, like so many other religious traditions, sought to celebrate a festival of light and hope around the winter solstice. For that is what Chanukah [aka Hannukah, which begins this year on Sunday 28 November] is about for me. I know that it is also a historical reminder of how, in 165 BCE, the Maccabees won a surprise victory over the Seleucid/Syrian oppressors who had invaded Israel and desecrated the Temple with their idols and pig sacrifices and forced my ancestors to abandon Jewish practice and learning. Some centuries later, the sages added the wonderful story of how a small vial of oil, needed to light the Menorah in the Temple, lasted not just one day, but eight. A miracle had happened there, and this was given as the reason why we light candles each night. But for me, the real story, the real miracle is how one tiny candle can dispel so much darkness. We need to be open to spot the tiny miracles that surround us each day. The love of family and friends. The sound of children playing. The light of the sun through the clouds. The colour of the trees. And so much more. Not only that, we need to push ourselves, if we can, to help provide miracles for others. We need to use our minds, hearts, bodies and purses to help dispel that darkness. I often feel a sense of despair, what can I really do to help? How can my puny actions make a dent in global warming, or the poverty, the violence that is everywhere around us in our world…but then the Chanukah candle reminds me, one little flame can be a light in the darkness. I wish you all a Happy and fulfilling Chanukah.

Rabbi Jackie Tabick (Council of Christians and Jews)

image credit: UAL Jewish Society Chanukah party


Shrove Tuesday Pancakes

The chaplaincy usually serves pancakes in the Parade Ground at Chelsea on Shrove Tuesday:


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A post shared by Chelsea College of Arts (@chelseaual)

Unfortunately due to lockdown, this will not be possible this year – in fact, last year’s pancakes, which accompanied a Mardi Gras arts festival, was one of our last events before the Covid crisis struck.

If you would like to make your own pancakes this year, here is the original recipe (for thin pancakes use plain flour and double the milk)

image credit: Barbara Dean

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent, the period of 40 days before Easter that begins on Ash Wednesday. All are welcome to join our Ash Wednesday service of prayer at 1pm —see our THIS WEEK section for joining details, or contact the chaplains for more information.


Ramadan under lockdown

image credit: The Door of Light, by Huda Al Mazroua

UAL Chelsea MA Fine Art student Huda Al Mazroua reflects on her experience of Ramadan at this time:

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, along with faith, prayer, charity, and the pilgrimage to Mecca. Two billion people celebrate Ramadan as one of the most valuable spiritual practices to empower a human in overcoming our self and transcending our ego. It helps restore justice and peace in the world.

Fasting in Islam means abstaining from food, drink, and sinful acts from sunrise to sunset. It is to instil piety and increase discipline to enable us to stay away from prohibited acts during the year. It is also an opportunity to understand how the poor experience starvation; we are encouraged to give and to become more generous and selfless.

Ramadan is full of blessings and virtues due to many spiritual and physical reasons. It teaches self-discipline and self-control, which is a  goal for all education institutions. In Ramadan, it is like my soul is full of energy, creative power and eureka moments. On the other hand, the time limit might affect my production.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the mosques are closed due to government-imposed social distancing, which is essential for keeping ourselves and family safe. However, the majority of Muslims are missing gathering for iftar parties in mosques and in homes; during Ramadan, Muslims usually invite each other to share food together at sunset, the end of the day’s fast. We all are missing our relatives and friends.

Research has shown that fasting can have many health benefits. For example, during fasting you eat fewer meals which means you take fewer calories; this facilitates weight loss, which can be helpful for those who are overweight. Fasting can reduce insulin resistance, lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes, and can also reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.

Thankfully, UAL offers support to Muslim students and workers at this time; however, more support may be required for those who have multiple roles. Muslims do get tired in Ramadan because of thirst and hunger. It can also be difficult to manage time, as Ramadan is full of worship, prayer, and reading the Quran.

For example, as a mother, I have responsibility for my three kids: I am the chef, the teacher, and the cleaner. At the same time, I am a student, a researcher, and an artist. At home in Saudi, we prepare food at night and eat before sunrise, then sleep during the day to minimise the long fasting day, but I have to wake up early as usual, to be active in online lectures, and in order to honour my teaching commitments at Princess Nourah University College of Art & Design, which supports me to the end.

In Mecca, the Ka’bah is the focus for followers of Islam, a quarter of the world’s population, and they turn to face it in prayer five times a day all around the world. I am inspired by the Ka’bah to create a new and unique form of art. My ideas are highlighted in my blog where I will be glad to be visited and happy to answer any questions.

With thanks to Huda for sharing her experience and artwork.  If you have any reflections of your own on Ramadan, or fasts and festivals in other faiths, and would like to share them here, please contact the chaplains.

Ramadan by Najia

As Muslims throughout the world prepare to observe Ramadan, UAL lead chaplain William Whitcombe talks to Najia Ahmed, UAL Student Services Information Helpdesk officer about what it all means …

image credit: ual chaplaincy

Can you tell us a bit about what Ramadan is all about?

Ramadan takes place every year for a month. Its a month of fasting, so no food or water from sunrise to sunset. The start date depends on the cycle of the moon, so each year Ramadan starts roughly 10 days earlier than the previous year (for 2019 it runs from 5 May to 4 June). Over the course of your life time, you will find yourself observing Ramadan in all four seasons. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam which is one of the main fundamentals of being a Muslim. It’s obligatory to observe Ramadan for every able Muslim. Its not all about abstaining from food, it’s a time of reflecting and taking stock of the past year, counting your blessings and an opportunity to start new and positive habits. Giving charity is another pillar in Islam and you will find in the month of Ramadan many Muslims giving back to those in need and working on bringing the community together. The other 3 pillars consist of stating your belief in Allah, praying, and performing Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca).

What does it mean to you, and what’s the most rewarding and most challenging aspect to Ramadan?

Ramadan for me is a time to reconnect to my faith; as the days and months roll by, you tend to fall off the wagon so to speak. It’s about working on myself so I become a better version of myself, to be a better Muslim. Being a better Muslim is not just about the physical actions of praying 5 times a day or learning prayers off by heart, but it’s also about working on your soul, getting rid of negative energy in your life or negative influences and putting out positive energy. I like reading the Quran more in Ramadan, all your good deeds are said to be exemplified during this month and as I believe in life after death, it’s good to have those good deeds piled up. Every Ramadan I try to set myself a goal of what I would like to accomplish; last year was a small goal of trying to memorise a prayer which I did and which I am proud of. I am hoping to set myself a bigger goal this year as I have more time. When the fasting days were shorter, we would get together with the rest of the family to break our fasts. Breaking your fast together feels like you’re part of something bigger than just you.

The biggest challenge for me is the lack of sleep. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love my sleep and my ability to snooze anywhere. When you’re fasting you have to wake up before sunrise and have breakfast to get you ready for the day ahead. Depending on the time of year, breakfast can either be 2am, 4am or 6am. You then finish your morning prayers and go back to sleep before having to wake up for work.

The most rewarding for me is accomplishing the fast. You feel like you have achieved something and when you do finally eat, you feel so grateful you can eat and have the ability to prepare so many delicious type of food, you truly do feel blessed for all that you have. You also realize how much you eat unnecessarily and how much time is spent thinking about and preparing food. During Ramadan we tend to cook and eat simple foods that doesn’t take long to prepare and you realize you have so much spare time!

Are there any practises in Ramadan that non-Muslims could implement into their lives, and how might it be beneficial?

Ramadan is a time of thinking of others, giving back to the community, whether it’s with money or volunteering your time. It’s about being grateful and happy for the things we have and spending time thinking about how to improve our lives for the better. Setting goals and motivating yourself to do more. This is something we can all do.

Lastly, do you have any advice to UAL staff when it comes to students and the sort of understanding and support they may need while observing this period?

I think encouragement is always good and to also be open to talk about it and acknowledge that Ramadan is taking place. I personally don’t mind talking about it and if any one has questions, I am more then open to answer them. For me the worst thing someone can say is ‘I could never do it’, which is fine because the thought of not eating or drinking for 17 hours seems hard, but in actuality the body can achieve a lot. For Muslims, we are fasting for spiritual reasons which goes beyond our day to day lives.