June 2018: A fantastic month for Pilgrim

June has been a fantastic month for Pilgrim

As the Pilgrim Project Manager it’s been incredibly rewarding seeing how the best part of £5m of construction works (along with all of the other activity linked to that) is suddenly starting to make a difference to the life of Gloucester Cathedral rather than “just” to the building.

It helps that the sun is shining – and that Cathedral Green is now full of people who are enjoying being out in the good weather.  But even without those factors, everywhere looks amazing and the things we had in mind when we briefed our design team are actually happening.

The most dramatic difference is in the physical accessibility of the ground floor of the Cathedral: the lifts and illuminated ramps together with the re-laid floor and removed pillar in the Lady Chapel are quietly dispensing with the worst of our previously insurmountable barriers.  As you come into the Cathedral our contemporary Welcome Area and the friendly and well trained volunteers you’ll find there are combining to greet our visitors and make sure they get everything they want out of their time here.  Up in the Tribune Gallery people are stopping to admire the architecture now beautifully revealed by our replacement of the former MDF safety panels with toughened glass.  I’m not actually sure who’s having more fun in our new “Interactive Space”: our visitors as they use our grown up toys to learn how the Cathedral was built, or us as we watch people make themselves at home.  Either way, we’re getting used to hearing laughter as well as whispers of awe and wonder.  It’s an extraordinary transformation and if I’ve failed to bring that to life for you I can only urge you to come down and see for yourself.

But if that’s what “Everyday Pilgrim” looks and sounds like, this month has also brought two different versions of “Special Occasion Pilgrim” for me to enjoy.  The first was an event for funders and supporters which started with Evensong and ended with every part of the new scheme flung open for our guests.  In between we managed canapes and fizz, speeches and applause and to persuade the Lord Lieutenant to “unwrap” a new Interpretation Block as a permanent record of everyone’s hard work.  It was an evening when everything went exactly as you’d hoped it would and where everyone went home happy.  It was also the kind of evening that encouraged speculation about “What’s next?”


The second occasion was a more public event designed to show the Cathedral at its best.  A combination of making sure that all of our new kit was clean and open with friendly staff and volunteers on hand; getting on with the usual worship in the most accessible way possible; and lots of added medieval style family fun – plus a brand new App.  Despite an unfortunate clash with an international football match, it was another joyous occasion.  And like everything else involved with Pilgrim, its success was down to lots of different individuals and proof positive that it’s typically the 80% perspiration rather than 20% inspiration which wins the day!

And so despite my disappointment at not being allowed to promote either event using the hashtag #partylikeits1349, things are looking rather good at the moment.  We’re past the planning, we’ve endured construction and now we’re getting used to our new normal. 

When everything feels so great, when the effort has been so significant and when the weather’s this glorious it’s tempting to kick back and relax.  But one of our key aspirations with Pilgrim was to improve our visitor experience and to find a way for that to help sustain the Cathedral going forward. 

Despite our success so far, we need to commit to this each and every day with a smile on our face.  The challenge for everyone next month then is to remember that our real work is only just beginning.


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