A match made in heaven for English cathedrals

In a match made in heaven, a team of industry experts has volunteered to make up a unique support panel that will see English cathedrals benefit from their unique skills and resources.

The two-year project created by the Association of English Cathedrals and funded by Allchurches Trust will see around 60 industry professionals from diverse fields form a Cathedrals Projects Support Panel.

The panel will boast expertise in areas including governance, finance, horology, IT, visitor engagement, town planning, security, project management and fundraising. One year in and 27 of the 42 cathedrals have already engaged with the panel, requesting assistance with 46 projects.

In Ripon, the Dean and 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 help from one of the panel's quantity surveyors, Trevor Groom, who has spent 40 years caring for historic buildings working with Cadw, Historic England, Historic Royal Palaces and the National Trust. The cathedral is preparing for Coventry's year as the Capital of Culture in 2021 and has a number of capital projects in development.

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 will allow 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.”

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 20 cathedrals which have engaged so far, eight have come back to the panel for more than one project.”

In the second year of the pilot project, the project board has agreed to extend the scheme by invitation to four 'major churches'. This will enable greater understanding of how the needs of parish churches and the way they engage with the panel might differ from cathedrals.