October 2017: Construction days until Advent

Construction days until Advent

At a time when retailers are starting to count shopping days until Christmas, the Pilgrim Team is wrestling with “construction days until Advent”.

Those familiar with the Christian calendar will know that the build up to Christmas (Advent) is just as busy as Christmas itself.  It doesn’t run to quite the same timeframe as a chocolate filled Advent calendar (this year it starts on 3 December) but it certainly stands as a non-negotiable deadline for completion of all construction works at Gloucester.

That’s not always been the case: when we started planning for Pilgrim, we thought the landscape scheme would take longer – with some of the planting running into next year.  However our main contractors have developed a shorter programme and having lived through one Advent and Christmas disrupted by construction, we are very keen to avoid another. 

Of course, last Advent we “only” had one contract (Cathedral Green) to worry about.  This year, we’ve added the main Internal Works contract – and most recently a separate roofing project to a building immediately adjacent to the main cathedral.   Last year, we “only” had a few weeks’ experience of living with a large capital project and while it was a change from the norm, disruption was mainly about routes through the Close and emergency exits from the Cathedral.

Having lived through a year of noise, dust, ever changing routes into and around the building and some interesting backdrops for worshippers and tourists alike, every single member of the Cathedral and construction teams is hyper-conscious of the need to have things back to normal by the first Sunday in Advent.  Because as we’ve already established, Advent is our busiest time of year. Unfortunately for us, one of our largest annual events takes place even earlier than that... on Sunday 19 November, Gloucester switches on its Christmas lights with a wonderful lantern parade making its way to the cathedral for a carol service.  The whole evening is “magical” – full of excitement, anticipation and goodwill to all.  And it’s incredibly well attended. 

So the Cathedral and its grounds are currently awash with people working at full capacity to ensure that things are finished in time.  Given the importance of quality for work such as this, it’s not a time for short-cuts nor is it a time when we want to be dealing with the kinds of errors which can happen when you’re under-pressure.  Which means that as well as working at full capacity (Saturday-morning working for the outside scheme), there are a number of regular conversations to check that Is have been dotted and Ts crossed – and particularly to check when that’s happening and who is responsible.  As with all things cathedral building related, it would be much more comfortable if this was happening behind closed doors ….

Yet that’s not the nature of Pilgrim and one of the great comforts through this process is that everyone wants the final “product” to be right.  Everyone is proud of their achievements and thrilled to be part of the Cathedral’s future.  I'm delighted that along the way we have managed to achieve our ambition of our contractors becoming part of the cathedral family.

This month we will put those relationships to the test because the challenge for Pilgrim is making sure that our new family pulls together to ensure that work is co-ordinated and finished in good time to welcome the rest of our guests for this year’s Christmas celebrations.  Why don’t you come along on Sunday 19 November to find out?


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