Match Made in Heaven – Experts Make Up Unique Support Panel

21st November 2018

A match made in heaven is taking place in English cathedrals as a team of industry experts have volunteered to make up a unique support panel that will see cathedrals benefit from their specialist skills and resources.

Around 60 industry professionals from diverse fields including governance, finance, horology, IT, visitor engagement, town planning, security, project management and fundraising, have all volunteered to be part of the innovative Cathedrals Projects Support Panel – a two-year project created by the Association of English Cathedrals and funded by Allchurches Trust.

One year on and 27 of the 42 cathedrals have engaged with the Cathedral Projects Support Panel requesting Panel assistance with 46 projects.

In Ripon, the Chapter wanted fresh eyes and expertise to help them rethink a project for a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) submission, and in Derby, they required assistance in the strategic planning of their HLF bid.

Coventry Cathedral sought support from one of the Panel’s quantity surveyors. It is preparing for Coventry’s year as City of Culture in 2021 and has a number of capital projects in development. Panel member Trevor Groom offered to help. Having received a project document and early schematic drawings from the cathedral architect Trevor went to Coventry to meet the project team and discuss the proposals in more depth. He subsequently provided an outline cost plan which the cathedral has used to support their project planning and fundraising.

Coventry Cathedral’s Chief Operating Officer, Isabel Merrifield said

“It is so helpful to have someone like Trevor to call on as part of the problem is often finding who to ask, let alone paying for the advice!”

Trevor is a quantity surveyor who has spent 40 years caring for historic buildings and undertaken multiple commissions for Cadw, Historic England, Historic Royal Palaces and the National Trust as well as working on over 140 projects with church buildings.

Durham Cathedral approached the Cathedral Project Support Panel for support with their commercial offer. The cathedral was undertaking a review in order to inform their future retail and catering plans and found help from panel member Nick Sutherland, CEO of the successful hospitality company The Sussex Pub Company, and chair of Chichester Cathedral Enterprises.

Following initial conversations with the cathedral’s Chief Operating Officer and desk-based research Nick visited Durham to meet with front line staff.

Durham’s Chief Operating Officer, Amanda Anderson said:

“I valued the opportunity to be able to talk through the challenges and ideas for solutions with someone who is clearly an expert in their field. “

The resulting report, which Nick provided, is being reviewed before being shared with the Chapter and Senior Management Team. Nick kindly volunteered to pay another visit to Durham Cathedral to discuss and take forward the recommendations.

Dale Copley, co-ordinator for the Cathedrals Projects Support Panel, said:

“We have been delighted with the response to the new Cathedral Projects Support Panel. Of the cathedrals that have so far engaged with the Panel, many of them have come back for more than one project.

“We originally envisaged the Panel would focus on major capital redevelopment projects – and while these remain a priority – it soon became clear that cathedrals are using the Panel in a far larger range of projects including the purchase of AV systems, reviews of catering facilities, their property portfolios, and their visitor welcome,” she added.

James Laing, Director of Grants and Relationships at Allchurches Trust, said:

“Cathedrals already do a wonderful job of reaching out to their local communities and visitors from all over the world, as well as ensuring that these magnificent places of worship are preserved for future generations, but we know that they are keen to do so much more.

“Resources vary so greatly between cathedrals and this Support Panel is allowing them to tap into skills and knowledge from a range of professionals, enabling them to maximise the potential and impact of some really exciting and innovative projects. That’s why Allchurches Trust was so keen to provide funding to help make this panel happen.”