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The Shape of Things to Come …

Over the past month, both of our main contractors have continued to work extraordinarily hard to ensure that everything is finished in time for Advent.  As the First Sunday in Advent this year falls on 3 December, I’m leaving it until next month’s blog to update you on our freshly minted 21st century version of Gloucester Cathedral.  That shouldn’t stop you from coming down to check things out for yourself, but far be it from me to spoil the surprise ….

In the meantime, I wanted to focus on a couple of recent events which bring to life our plans for the use of these refreshed spaces and which remind me (as if I could forget!) of the continuing scale of the ambition for the Cathedral.

If you visited this October half term, you won’t have been able to miss our 30 metre colouring-in carpet.  This was Gloucester Cathedral’s contribution to “The Big Draw”, simultaneously a charity promoting drawing as a tool for learning, expression and creativity and the world’s biggest drawing festival.  The event was arranged by our Community Engagement Manager, Helen, whose post is funded through Pilgrim and the generous support of the Sylvanus Lysons Charity.  It was delivered as part of our “Activity Plan” aimed at attracting new audiences to this extraordinary building. 

Over nine days, nearly 1,500 people coloured and painted a black and white printed design inspired by the Cathedral’s famous fan-vaulted cloisters, kneeling or sitting down in the cloister itself on some of the cathedral’s many hassocks.  The design for the carpet was produced by architectural artist and historian, Amy-Jane Adams with the final version a visual riot reflecting the colours of the Cathedral’s stained glass and the artistic talents of our visitors.  Throughout the nine days, the sense of shared endeavour in the cloisters was palpable with participants experiencing a range of different feelings and emotions from calm mindfulness to giddy delight.  The event was widely promoted – with the national profile of the Big Draw very useful in attracting people but with word of mouth from “satisfied customers” equally effective.  Participation was also free; but as is the way with our latest thinking about maximising available income without compromising the experience of visitors, we also sold cards and other souvenirs as well as refreshments from our refectory, the Monk’s Kitchen. We also accepted some very welcome donations from many of our amateur artists. Generating income in this way means that we’ll able to continue such activities long after Pilgrim is completed.

So a triumph then - and not just thanks to Helen and Amy - but to a large number of staff and volunteers who helped set up and run the event each day or who kept the cathedral functioning around the “excitement” of the Big Draw.  The success of the event – on a number of different levels including the “feel good factor” – is one we hope to repeat and for many of our visitors, this chance to be part of living heritage is one of the most memorable parts of visiting a Cathedral.  The themes of these future events are yet to be agreed and they may or may not be drawing focused, but each has to be appealing in its own right at the same time as creatively bringing the Cathedral’s stories to life – and not getting in the way of letting the experience of being in the building tell its own story.

I could go on, but amidst the preparations for this year’s Big Draw, the final push to finish the construction contracts and the delivery of graduation ceremonies for many of the county’s students, we also hosted a visit from HRH The Duke of Gloucester.  The visit served a number of purposes but perhaps most significantly, allowed us to announce Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester as joint patrons of the next phase of Project Pilgrim.

Which suggests that this month’s challenge is one of perspective and balance: how can we keep one eye on the future whilst managing the demands of the present at the same time as holding on tight to the parts of our past and history which make this place so special…

Anne


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