May 2018:Building On Our Foundations

Building On Our Foundations

The last month has been as busy as ever for Project Pilgrim. 

Although most of the construction work is finished, our masonry team haven’t quite completed their four year odyssey to conserve the exterior stonemasonry of the Lady Chapel.  That’s now due in the summer but even before we’ve dropped the scaffolding to reveal the building, we’re already plotting where to put it up next.    If you’ve ever wanted to sponsor a gargoyle, this year could be your chance!

Snagging is the next thing on my To Do list.  Some of this would seem minor in any other context but the Cathedral has never been the place for “good enough” and I’ve no intention of being the person responsible for accepting less than best.  That said, there are two rather large bits of outstanding work – both of which bring their own pressure.

Then there’s the tricky process of “getting used” to things: new maintenance arrangements to arrange; details of which new pieces of kit need to be turned on and off, when and by whom; extra volunteering opportunities to be covered with training for staff and volunteers alike; additional risk assessments to be completed – the list goes on. Our “Rise and Fall” bollards will be operational for the first time in June and the behind the scenes preparation for them doesn’t bear thinking about!  It’s yet another Pilgrim task which impacts the whole Cathedral, bringing extra work or change for colleagues and residents alike.

One of the other changes involves recruitment of a new team member.  After three years, our much loved Pilgrim Project Officer has headed off to start an exciting new role in the south of the county.  The timing of this is fortuitous to say the very least, coming at a point when I can reshape the role to focus on the Cathedral’s role as the most popular visitor destination in the county rather than the daily management of a construction project.  Interviews take place early in June, and having just shortlisted there is an impressive field of candidates from which to choose.

Which is just as well since the stakes continue to rise with the Cathedral awarded a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence only days after being voted best Visitor Attraction of the Year Award in the inaugural SoGlos Gloucestershire Lifestyle Awards.  A truly “popular” vote from the people of Gloucestershire.  Both of these are encouraging – particularly after last year’s understandably disappointing visitor numbers – but both mean we need to work even harder to develop things further.

At the same time, we’ve had two exceptional events each of which brought new visitors to the Cathedral.  We held a daytime launch event for FestivALL, a collaboration jointly led by the African Community Foundation Gloucestershire, the Barnwood Trust, the Diocese of Gloucester and Gloucester Cathedral.  Over the next month different communities will be putting on their own events across the county and it was terrific to see so many people making use of Cathedral Green as part of this.  It’s one of those things which can be hard to bring to life in words but as ever, there are pictures across social media – and at the top of this blog – showing the Cathedral in a new light.

The other event was organised by one of our key supporters (The Summerfield Trust) who arranged an extraordinary evening of performances and presentations by a number of other grant recipients using the newly conserved Lady Chapel.  The whole evening was enjoyable – from the moment of arrival to my departure with a handful of cheese straws for the journey home.  We’ve talked a great game about making the Cathedral accessible and welcoming but to see a performance in this space by young people, several of whom were in wheelchairs moved me to tears.

The challenge next month then is to build on these amazing foundations.  If you’ve not already visited, why not join us for our public launch on Sunday 24 June to see for yourself. 

At Gloucester Cathedral, everyone is welcome.


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