Government rules on Covid restrictions were relaxed this month and that meant more and more people returned to their discover cathedrals.
July was a month of new beginnings for many of our cathedrals.
We were able to welcome more people into our buildings, open up exhibitions and events – we could even sing – all done with caution and care to continue to keep people safe.
It was a month to say a well deserved thank you to the NHS and all frontline workers – and many of our cathedrals rang their bells to mark the 73rd anniversary of the National Health Care Service.
And the baton came home. Yes, July saw the final group of cyclists bring the specially commissioned baton back home to Newcastle Cathedral following 42 days of cycling between every one of our 42 cathedrals to mark the launch of the new Cathedrals Cycle Route.
This 2,000 mile route links every one of our cathedrals in an initiative to promote greener travel and mental and physical well-being. During those 42 days over 250 cyclists, riding in small groups between each cathedral, raised more than £5,000 for various charities to help social and mental isolation. It is hoped the Cathedrals Cycle Route relay will become an annual event.
The much anticipated Natural History Museum’s iconic dinosaur cast, Dippy the Diplodocus, finally arrived at Norwich Cathedral – the last stop and only cathedral stop on its nationwide tour. Dippy is the focal point of a special programme of worship, arts and crafts, exhibitions, films, and science talks at Norwich and can be experienced until 30 October.
Peterborough Cathedral invited visitors to walk, dance and sing on the moon after its summer exhibition One Small Step by artist Peter Walker, was installed This 36m by 7m artwork uses imagery from NASA to create a representation of the moon surface. And there’s a host of special events and services organised around this installation available until the end of October – including an inflatable planetarium from the National Space Centre in October half term.
Sheffield celebrated its heritage with a specially curated exhibition about steel and the people who made it, and the cathedral joined in a city wide initiative by hosting some very special bears in their building!
Chester brought trains into the cathedral with a 74ft model railway running through the nave – thanks to the support of celebrity record producer, Pete Waterman OBE. Making Tracks brings the West Coast Line to life and commemorates the work of Chester’s own Thomas Bussey, a civil engineer, who in his lifetime was responsible for one third of all railways in Britain.
Exeter Cathedral welcomed their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall on the first stop of their Royal tour of Devon – their first official Royal visit in the country since the easing of coronavirus restrictions. Prince Charles has agreed to become patron for the Exeter Cathedral Development Fund which aims to raise funds to conserve the building’s important architecture and improve the visitor experience for future generations.
Truro Cathedral choristers who hit the headlines last month with their Sing2G7 project that united thousands of young people in song around the world, announced that by donating their royalties had raised over £8,000 – sufficient for 10,000 Covid vaccines for UNICEF’s VaccinAid project.
And talking about singing, the move to Step 4 of the Government’s roadmap, meant a return to congregational singing, albeit cautiously and carefully. It was the first time in its 70 year history that the Southern Cathedrals Festival – which brings together the choirs of Winchester, Salisbury and Chichester – had a digital makeover. It was premiered online, and a series of short videos were made telling the story of the people behind the festival and the impact of being unable to sing during the pandemic.
The annual Three Choirs festival opened last week in Worcester Cathedral with an exciting programme of choral and orchestral concerts, recitals, talks, family events, cathedral services, theatre, and exhibitions on the theme of journeying and looking to the future. It also asked visitors to observe social distance and wear face coverings where they were able.
The start of the school summer holidays saw our cathedrals launch a wide range of activities, tours, outdoor theatre, dressing up, arts and crafts and cathedral challenges for a summer of fun. And in keeping with the Tokyo Olympics, there are even Gold medals to be had for successful challenges at Gloucester Cathedral.
This month saw new deans announced for Sheffield and Hereford Cathedrals while the Dean of Bradford’s said his goodbyes in a series of final services before he retired, and the Dean of St Paul’s announced he would retire next September.
And in other news, Ely Cathedral held its first Green Fair, part of its Heaven and Earth – the World in our Hands project that saw Luke Jerram’s Gaia, a seven metre replica of planet Earth, installed in the nave throughout July. Wakefield too celebrated the natural world with a new exhibition, Dandelions and Double Yellows which looked at the world of weeds at our feet.
And as the month neared its end, all eyes turned to Newcastle Cathedral as it prepares to re-open this August following completion of its historic transformation project Common Ground in Sacred Space. This project, started in February 2020, will see the city landmark renewed as a dynamic hub for worship, community and business activity for the 21st century and beyond in a project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Please be assured all our Church of England cathedrals have achieved the Visit Britain’s industry standard and consumer charter mark We’re Good to Go which means visitors can be confident that cathedrals are taking all the necessary steps to help ensure people’s safety. Hand sanitiser will be available, and visitors will be asked to respect the need for some social distance between households, and they are welcome to wear a face mask during their visit if they wish.
The NHS QR code will be available for visitors to scan for NHS Test and Trace purposes.
And anyone who has symptoms of Covid-19, or who has been asked to self-isolate, is asked to stay at home.