January 2018: Worth the Wait ….

Worth the Wait ….

I’ve written before about the sometimes overwhelming choice in terms of potential subject matter for my monthly blog.  This month’s dilemma isn’t so much what to write about, it’s finding a single emotion and tone that accurately reflects my recent experience.

When, very late in the day, it became apparent that neither of the main construction contracts would hit their pre Advent completion dates - despite everyone’s best efforts - there was little time to reflect or to be disappointed.  Nor - despite the hundreds of words available to me - was there a real opportunity to talk through the complexity of “pausing” construction and explain in detail why things are delayed and what that actually means, including any consequential delays. 

Whilst work outside the Cathedral stopped on 8 December, it has carried on within the building in areas (the Lady Chapel and Tribune galleries) which are happily set aside from main worship spaces.  Our main contractor has also started working overnight within the nave, aisles and north Transept both because completion is tantalisingly close and also because the disruption caused by this element (restricted access for those with mobility issues combined with partially disabled heating and draughts from all sides) is hard to live with.

However, we have (rightly) made a virtue of a necessity in Pilgrim: with the Cathedral open for worship every day of the year and the Cathedral Close a bustling public space and through-route it’s impossible to keep the building works behind closed doors. People can see what’s going on (warts and all) so we have actively shared as much information as we can to keep everyone informed and explain our aspirations.

A small team meets every other week to review our communications and we update huge numbers of people in real-time using almost every communication method you can imagine except Pigeon Post and Morse Code.  We are (I am) fortunate that Cathedral Green in particular has caught the imagination of Gloucester residents and the associated local “press” (radio and TV, print and digital), but I’ve struggled to know how to respond to recent coverage about the delays without seeming as though we’re making excuses … or turning communication (rather than management) into a full time job. 

I’m not sure if we have Benjamin Disraeli or Kate Moss to thank for the timeless phrase “Never complain, never explain” but here at Project Pilgrim, we’re committed to sharing and explaining every step of the way. And, having received such positive feedback from so many, for so much of the journey, it seems churlish to feel aggrieved when those same people want to know why we haven’t quite stuck to our timetable!

So putting my own frustration and end of year tiredness firmly to one side, I want to use this month’s blog to remind everyone what it is we’re trying to do. You’ve heard this before but I make no apologies for repeating myself because the concept is fundamental to every single decision we make about the project: Pilgrim is our opportunity to ensure the Cathedral is ready to serve its community and visitors for generations to come and to make sure that all people feel welcome and have a meaningful experience when they visit. 

These are big ambitions but they’re also the right ones which is why Pilgrim has secured so much support from funders, partners and people. They’re also the reason we have to get it right first time - projects of this scale do not get second chances and future phases (we have two in mind) rest on our ability to deliver now. This is why we absolutely will not compromise on quality to hit a deadline. It’s why we won’t take short-cuts to cut costs if it puts our objectives at risk. Because what good is ticking the ‘on time and on budget’ box if the project doesn’t meet our ambitions?  Or if it isn’t genuinely (even painfully) transformational?

So whilst it would be easy to simply state that the delays are due to issues like snagging, weather, and stone delivery delays… Or that there isn’t a guidebook which tells you how to balance a £6m capital project whilst allowing the Cathedral to function at its busiest time of year, the challenge this month is to get Pilgrim right.  We only have one chance to do that and we can’t afford to miss it.


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