November 2016: "Are We Nearly There Yet?"

"Are We Nearly There Yet?"

Upper College Green is no longer a car park. 

It’s felt like a Herculean effort to get to this point but in years to come I’m sure it will seem unthinkable that the space outside one of the most beautiful and significant buildings in the country could ever have seemed like an appropriate place for a car park.  Coming to terms with that change has not proved easy and at times it’s been absolutely awful!  But as this blog is about sharing the pain and the lessons learned as well as keeping the Pilgrim vision front and centre, I can also tell you that these experiences have helped to inform our expectations of how we should relate to each other at Gloucester Cathedral in the future.

Back in the present, it’s time to get excited about this period of transformation and put our efforts into making the process itself interesting and enjoyable rather than another variation on the “laws and sausages” scenario: you really don’t want to see either being made.  Which is why we’re encouraging everyone to #BePartOfIt.

But as much as others can get excited, this is where we hit my troubled relationship with archaeology … because the reason the car park is no longer a car park, is because it’s now an extended, live episode of Time Team.  If you’re interested in seeing it, it’s likely to run until Christmas (at least) and entrance is free.  That said, since most of the site was a former burial ground, all seats come with restricted views given the nature of what we are likely to unearth. 

If I wasn’t the Project Pilgrim Manager (being paid to deliver our vision on time and on budget), the fact that we have to carefully investigate and record the space before we landscape it would be a source of nothing but fascination.  The supersize Interpretation Panels so lovingly put together by our Visitor Experience Manager to explain what’s happening, what we might find and how to get involved, would be an invitation to get up close and personal as our team of archaeologists begin to reveal the past.  The fact that it will soon be the middle of winter wouldn’t deter me: hats, gloves, scarves and all things thermal would be my answer to anyone who thought it too cold to come and find out more.  The (remote) possibility of finding the old Roman wall or great Medieval cross – or even the original Anglo-Saxon minster – would be enough to have me checking the Cathedral twitter feed so frequently that I’d probably give myself RSI.

I get that all of this is extraordinarily interesting.  I appreciate that a good archaeology team needs to spend far longer processing the things they’ve found than finding them in the first place to glean every last bit of knowledge to be had and add to our understanding of the past.  I am blown away what new technology can now offer in terms of revealing all sorts of hidden gems.  And I honestly appreciate that our Planning processes identify someone whose job it is to make sure our shared heritage is properly protected.  But as the Project Pilgrim Manager, what I’m really thinking about as I talk to our on-site Archaeology Team is: “How long is this going to take before we can start the actual landscaping?”  Closely followed by “How much is this costing?”   It’s the Project Manager equivalent of a fractious child on an endless journey asking “Are we nearly there yet?”

Of course the real Project Manager nightmare is the risk that at any moment we’ll shift from being a cosy version of Time Team into a gripping re-enactment of that well known Leicester favourite, “Of Kings and Car Parks.”  Because if we do discover something that significant – and given Gloucester’s history that has to be a possibility – then everything stops…

It’s the biggest “jeopardy” cliff-hanger yet in Project Pilgrim and I’m watching from behind the sofa! 

Tune in next month to find out what Christmas looks like on a building site.  In the meantime why not follow our progress in real time via Twitter on @ProjectPilgrim1?  

Pilgrim's Progress
Webpage icon April 2017: Spring Forward...
Webpage icon December 2016: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year …..
Webpage icon February 2017: The year of living dangerously
Webpage icon January 2017: Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes
Webpage icon March 2017: Welcome to Gloucester Cathedral