Bishop joins clergy on the catwalk

Later this week Norwich's Rt Rev Peter Fox will be taking to the catwalk for a fashion show with a difference. Derek James finds out more.

Meet the magical modelling Bishop who will be cutting a dash on the catwalk later this week.

Norwich's Rt Rev Peter Fox is a vicar, a magician, a former Papua New Guinean bishop and has just answered a call for clergy keen to strut their stuff on the catwalk.

And the colourful clothes he will be showcasing are all hand-made by his wife, Angie.

He has a stunning green full-length cape, known as a cope, resplendent with a Tree of Life design, topped with a golden bird of paradise.

He has a red communion robe, with flames dancing across it.

He has robes stitched with designs based on pictures painted by the children of Lakenham – including one of himself, looking, he acknowledges, 'bald and bearded and rather strange!'

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I think he looks fantastic!

The priest clothes, or vestments, are all made by his wife who admits she has been known to dream up a design when her mind wanders from her husband's sermons.

Peter was brought up in Norfolk and is now a much-loved Norwich vicar, but he served for several years on the other side of the world, and was made a bishop in Papua New Guinea in 2001.

He said: 'It obviously gave her a lot more scope, having a bishop to dress. She's always been a great seamstress but now there were copes and mitres.

'In fact, as a member of the magic circle, I'm probably one of the only magicians officially entitled to wear a pointy hat and carry a special stick!'

Peter has loved performing magic tricks for as long as he remembers and still gives talks and shows.

But back in the 1980s he had his own regular slot at Petitts of Reedham.

'Monday was my day off from my parish so I became 'The Amazing Dr Fox,'' he said.

But although he loves performing on stage, and Angie's vestments are renowned in clerical circles, they have never before featured in a fashion show.

Peter, and his vestments, will be making their modelling debut at the 'The Clergy on the Catwalk' event at a big Christian show in Peterborough later this week.

'It's a complete departure really,' Peter said.

'And I thought it was a good opportunity to show the Church's lighter side, to have a bit of fun and also show people some very interesting pieces of art work. The vestments that Angie makes are definitely pieces of art.'

Angie, who works for the Roman Catholic diocese, admitted: 'Design ideas usually come to me during worship. I wouldn't like to admit how much designing goes on during my husband's sermons!'

In the tropical heat of lush Papua New Guinea Angie, a gifted needlewoman, ran a group teaching women to make vestments. Some were then sold to help the local church.

'It's a very, very poor country,' said Peter.

There are long-standing links between Norfolk and Papua New Guinea, 12,000 miles away, with the first Anglican Archbishop of Papua New Guinea coming from Tatterford, near Fakenham.

Then there was Norwich man Oliver Tompkins, who went out as a missionary 110 years ago – and was eaten by cannibals.

Peter said his own mission to Papua New Guinea was not something he planned, but something he felt called to do.

He grew up in North Norfolk, where his father was a rector, and went to school in North Walsham and then on to City College, before training as a priest himself.

His first job was as a curate in Wymondham, where he met Angie.

He and Angie spent five years in Papua New Guinea from 1979 and the eldest of their three sons was born there.

They then returned in 2001, and Peter served as Bishop of Port Moresby for five years.

Peter became Vicar of Lakenham and Tuckswood when he returned from Papua New Guinea and is also an honorary assistant bishop.

On Thursday he will add another strand to an already-striking CV when he sashays down the catwalk for the first time.

'I'm a bit showbusiness-mad. I think a lot of us are!' admitted the former Amazing Dr Fox, before he headed out to give a talk on magic, mediums and supernatural scams.

The first ever East of England Christian Resources Exhibition will be held at the Exec, Peterborough, from February 24-26. The huge Christian Resources Exhibitions have been held around the country, but never before in East Anglia.

Four thousand visitors are expected to enjoy talks, workshops, entertainment and the chance to buy everything clerical from church heating systems to evangelising puppets.

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