April 2018: The Wait is Over

The Wait is Over

Over the past month, I’ve been asked one question more than any other: “What are you going to do now?”

After nearly sixteen months of construction, this makes me smile.  If seeing is believing (perhaps not always the case at a place of worship!), then people at the Cathedral are finally getting ready for “the new”.  The scaffolding is coming down, the builders are moving on to new work and I can stop worrying about whether or not we’ll hit our Easter Sunday deadline.

Look closely and you’ll see it’s actually somewhat of a wry smile.  That’s not because there’s still the “snagging” to focus on: true though that is, it’s inevitable given the non-negotiable requirement for quality at a building like this.  Nor is it because I now need to contemplate moving on from a job and a place I adore.  I’m here for another eighteen months delivering the rest of Phase One of Pilgrim because despite all appearances to the contrary, this isn’t actually a building project.

Pilgrim is about ensuring the Cathedral can play its part in the life of the city, county and Diocese, in the lives of those who live locally and those who visit from across the globe.  Pilgrim is about the Cathedral being fit for purpose in the 21st century.  Having a building which isn’t falling down isn’t enough!

Regular readers of Pilgrim’s Progress know this but it’s only now that the scale and reality of our ambitions is becoming clear to others.  Before work started on Pilgrim, hundreds of thousands of people came to the Cathedral – but they stayed on average only 30 minutes.  Younger visitors – and to some extent, local residents too – stayed away altogether, telling us they couldn’t think of a reason to visit and weren’t sure they’d be welcome if they did.

The picture wasn’t completely gloomy but sufficiently sobering for us to go back to basics.  For hundreds of years, Gloucester Cathedral has been a place of continuous worship, music, learning and welcome.  What does that look like in 2018? 

Well, the basics are now firmly in place: as you approach the Cathedral, you enter a beautiful landscape which draws your eyes and feet to the building and offers a pleasant place to stay.  The design, lighting, unobstructed views into the Cathedral and a set of automatic doors make it obvious that everyone is welcome.  Signage confirms that entrance is free.  Once inside, carefully designed and placed “additions” help you navigate your way around, both literally and by bringing our purpose and stories to life in all kinds of engaging ways.  The East End of the Cathedral is accessible with the introduction of uncompromising new ramps and lifts and with the removal of pillars and steps.  Our existing volunteers – and many of the Cathedral’s staff – have spent time becoming familiar with our new facilities and are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to see what a difference we can make.

For me, the next eighteen months is an interesting mix of things.  A necessary few (sorting out maintenance and the final builders’ accounts) will look back but the majority are about our present and future role: ensuring that we’re managing to achieve our ambitions.  So we’ll be getting our message out far and wide; checking and testing and fine tuning our new visitor facilities; introducing volunteers into the outside space, and opening up a new space for our visitors; launching a Virtual Tour and a separate digital app; staging a whole series of new events and activities using existing and new spaces; checking what our visitors think and feel about the Cathedral; seeing if people are coming back as we hope.  We’ll be reporting back to our patrons and funders – staging two celebratory launch events for them and for Gloucester residents over the summer.  We’ll be seeing how the new spaces help us and our partners with our commitment to social responsibility. 

Somewhere in there, we’ll also be thinking about Pilgrim Phase Two.  But before that, it’s about opening the Cathedral’s doors as wide as we can to welcome visitors.  Despite the disruption of the past year’s work, I’m proud that we’ve kept the doors open at all points.  And I’m thrilled that we’ve been shortlisted as Visitor Attraction of the Year in the SoGlos Gloucestershire Lifestyle Awards

Voting runs until the end of the month and we’re keen to hear what you think.  So why not come and see for yourself? 


Follow the link to find out more about this year’s Gloucestershire Lifestyle Awards and to vote for Gloucester Cathedral  https://www.soglos.com/awards


Printer Printable Version

Culture Recovery fund for Heritage logo

Visit England logo Green-Tourism logo Cotswolds.com logo trip advisor link Arocha Eco Church logo Year of Cathedrals Church of England Diocese of Gloucester GLA Winner