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Pilgrim, priest and ponderer. European living in North East England. Retired parish priest, theological educator, cathedral precentor and dean.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Dean's Annual Report to the Friends of Durham Cathedral

It is always a pleasure to present my annual report to the Friends. I do this, once again thanking you for your wonderful support for the Cathedral and its work.  On behalf of the Chapter, I want to express our deep gratitude for your generosity in funding, fellowship and friendship.  And if I had to underline one of those three words, it would be the last.  As I often say, in a world of complexity and risk, every institution needs friends, allies and champions, and we are fortunate to have so many of them.  Thank you for all that you give this Cathedral in so many tangible and intangible ways. 

Three Personal Highlights
Let me begin with three personal highlights from the past year.  A week ago we were celebrating The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  There was a magnificent service last Saturday attended by civic leaders and members of the public.  It incorporated words spoken by Her Majesty during her 60 years on the throne, and also an extract from the Golden Speech of Queen Elizabeth I.  In it she spoke about the importance to her of the love of her people, without which monarchy will fail.  I think we were all helped by this service not only to celebrate and thank the Sovereign, but also to reflect on the meaning of wise leadership and good citizenship. 

Last November, we welcomed Bishop Justin Welby to his Diocese and Cathedral. It is a year ago this month that his appointment was announced.  He, the Bishop of Jarrow and I are all alumni of Coventry Cathedral, and it was good to be back there together for the Cathedral’s golden jubilee last month. Bishop Welby’s enthronement was another of those occasions when you feel that there is no place like Durham Cathedral when it comes to rising to a great occasion.  The sense of warmth, welcome and celebration was palpable in that service, and I was not the only one to be surprised by how moved I was. 

The week before, we celebrated the Lumière festival in Durham.  If you were in the city during those four days, I think you will never forget it.  For many, the Cathedral and the College were the centre point of this extraordinarily beautiful carnival of light.  On Palace Green, the Crown of Light presentation on the north face of the Cathedral was an unforgettable interpretation of the Christian history of Durham.  Inside, the array of hundreds of gently illuminated vests suspended throughout the nave made eloquent connections with the mining industry. It is estimated that around 120,000 people passed through the Cathedral during the festival.  We had many plaudits thanking us for our courage in taking part.  There are always things to learn as a result of hosting major events, but I was very proud of the Cathedral’s contribution to Lumière. We look forward to a return visit in due course. 

To crown a good year, The Guardian held an online poll to discover Britain’s favourite building.  Durham won… again.  Who can argue with the judgment of the British public? 

The Big Story: Open Treasure
This year, those of you who have come from a distance will notice that we are in the throes of a major building development around the cloister.  This is Phase 1a of a project whose aspiration is to enlarge and renew the Cathedral’s offering of welcome, hospitality, exhibition and interpretation to our visitors. We welcome more than 600,000 each year, but not nearly enough of them find their way into the cloister to enjoy these marvellous spaces and the treasures they hold. 

Why are we doing all this?  We have called the project Open Treasure because we believe we should open up to our guests, pilgrims, visitors and the wider public the treasures that we are privileged to have inherited here.  But ‘treasure’ means more than heritage buildings and artefacts.  In the New Testament, Jesus speaks about how we must bring out of our treasures things old and new.  He says in the Sermon on the Mount that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. So in a deeper sense, heritage is about the lived Christian community of this place from St Cuthbert’s era to the present and the gospel in whose name we are what we are.  All this belongs to our treasure: it concerns the whole Cathedral’s mission, the six pillars of life together: worship and spirituality; welcome and care; learning, nurture and formation; outreach and engagement; buildings, treasures and environment; and finance and stewardship.  And as we attract people to enjoy the fruits of the project, their admission will help stabilise the finances of the Cathedral, and that in turn will ensure that we do not have to contemplate charging admission to the church itself. 

Phase 1a will see the Cathedral shop installed in the undercroft opposite the restaurant, where a remarkable vista of the crypt vaults has been opened up.  The Friends have contributed generously to this part of the project.  The lobby between the shop and restaurant is being widened to allow summer catering to overflow there, and access from the cloister via a lift will avoid the long journey disabled people have to make to get there from the church.  The choir vestries are being relocated in the undercroft previously occupied by the audio-visual centre.  All this is scheduled to be complete by the end of the summer, not only on time but hopefully below budget.  

Phase 1b will see the development of our exhibition spaces.  The monastic dormitory will continue to be a working library but we want to recover an older Durham tradition that also saw it as a magnificent exhibition space.  From here there we intend to create a new link to the monastic kitchen through a glazed gallery running between the south range of the cloister and the kitchen which will not only provide further exhibition space but will also reveal the architectural relationship between these buildings that has up to now been invisible from the inside.  The great kitchen itself will be the centrepiece of the exhibition where our priceless Cuthbert relics and other treasures will be displayed. 

Working up these plans has entailed a very considerable amount of work on the part of many colleagues. This year’s task is to secure the statutory permissions from the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England, the national planning body for all cathedrals.  We have worked closely not only with them but with English Heritage, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the University’s library and conservation team, our own Fabric Committee and many others.

Open Treasure is now the major focus of fundraising for the Cathedral’s development programme. The project was awarded a first stage pass by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant application of £3.5 million.  This means that HLF supports the project and will welcome a more detailed application for the amount proposed. We are currently working on the Stage 2 application, and hope to submit the final application in October 2012. The development team is working with a number of charitable trusts and is putting together proposals for elements of the project which best meet the funding criteria of each one. Two dinners at the House of Lords will be taking place in October and November to introduce the project to trusts and corporates based in the south of England.

More generally, fundraising for development programme has been under way for four years, and so far over £3 million has been raised. This includes in the past year a grant of £287,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to renew the 18th century woodlands and riverbanks which give the Cathedral its unique and beautiful setting.  We were grateful for grants of £50,000 and £25,750 from the Friends and from the Banks Community Fund for this project. A number of generous individual gifts were received during the year.  We continue to welcome new patrons and corporate partners and are grateful for their support. 

Worship and Music
I have mentioned the Bishop’s enthronement and the Diamond Jubilee service already. Among the many special services in the past year I should mention the four diocesan confirmations arranged in order to assist the Bishop of Jarrow during the episcopal vacancy: more than 250 people were confirmed; the BBC’s broadcast of choral evensong on St Paul’s Day; and on St Cuthbert’s Day, the welcome and dedication of the new St Cuthbert Banner created by the Northumbrian Association. 

You may be interested to know that 4,009 people attended worship in the Cathedral on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (compared with 2,842 in 2010 when the weather was cruel); from the first Sunday in Advent to St Stephen’s Day, 24,457 attended events and services in the Cathedral (compared with 21,898 in 2010); and 1520 people attended worship on Easter Day (compared with 1171 in 2010).  These and other statistics which are echoed nationally indicate that the numbers of cathedral worshippers continue to hold up, and even to show modest growth.  

Last June my wife and I were privileged to lead a third visit of the boy choristers and gentlemen to Versailles; this time we eschewed air travel and took the train.  As always, we were made wonderfully welcome, singing services and concerts in Versailles itself and in Chartres Cathedral and other places in and around Paris.  The choir acquitted itself with distinction, the boys producing some of their best singing of the year - including movements from MacMillan's Missa Dunelmi, in whose commissioning the Friends played a generous part. 

In December we celebrated the first anniversary of the Music Endowment Fund, with a fundraising concert Carols of Light, in partnership with the Sunderland AFC Foundation. This put the choristers literally in the spotlight alongside the Countess of Wessex, Sir Thomas Allen, Joe McElderry, Rick Wakeman and many others.  It raised over £70,000 which was split between the Foundation and the Cathedral’s music endowment fund. The annual Christmas concert on 17 December to a packed cathedral starred the entire choir and provided a wonderful opportunity for the cathedral's magnificent new piano, the gift of two devoted and generous donors, to be heard in public for the first time.  Through all of these testing events the team never seemed to blink, crowning the month with wonderful Christmas Carol Services. 

Evensong (sung by the boys and men) was broadcast live from the Cathedral on 25 January 2012; the girls and men made a CD recording with Priory Records in February, including both MacMillan's Missa Dunelmi and Berkeley's Advent Anthem sung at the Bishop’s enthronement: we hope for the release of this recording quite soon.  A CD recording made by James Lancelot of Mendelssohn's Organ Sonatas was released in March.  That month the girls and men visited Scotland, giving concerts in St Machar's Cathedral, Aberdeen; St Salvator's Chapel, St Andrews; and singing Sunday services in St. John's Church, Princes Street, Edinburgh.  Visits have been exchanged with St Mary's Edinburgh (here in Durham) and Ripon and York (in Ripon).  Most recently, the choir shared the platform with the Tallis Scholars last Saturday at a concert of renaissance music recorded for BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show. 

This year, we received support by the way of a £20,000 endowment grant from the Friends of Cathedral Music.  This gift and others takes the total raised by the Music Endowment Fund to £160,000.  The Cathedral’s Music Outreach Programme received a significant boost from benefactors Chris and Margaret Lendrum, who generously donated £10,000 to support the programme this year and next.
Among concerts arranged externally, we were delighted to welcome to the Cathedral the saxophonist Jan Garbarek, the Durham Brass Festival, The Sixteen on their annual choral pilgrimage, and the Royal British Legion’s festival of remembrance. 

The Cathedral Community
Twice a year, we gather as a Cathedral community in the nave for an evening meeting at which we discuss Cathedral news and developments and focus on an aspect of our work.  ‘Community’ means worshippers, volunteers, staff – anyone who considers that they ‘belong’ to Durham Cathedral.  The meeting is followed by a buffet supper which is, I suspect, most people’s reason for coming.  This year, the first of these concentrated on finance and stewardship, the first time we had presented the realities of our financial position to the community. As a result, several members of the Cathedral community decided to begin to give regularly or increased their giving, many taking out standing orders for the first time. This promises an additional £20,000 a year. We shall be continuing to keep the stewardship message before the Cathedral community because this aspect of Christian discipleship, vital for our Christian mission at the Cathedral, has been neglected in the past.

The Cathedral Sunday School meets in the Education Centre and continues to be a small but lively group. Although the Sunday School itself is for young children, there is a family feel to is with strong support from parents. The children join their families in time to go to the altar and it is lovely to see the children so at home in the vast space of the Cathedral. The older group, which was started last year for chorister age children, is now well established and popular with its members. Meanwhile, the 10.05 group consisting largely of students continues to meet each Sunday to explore biblical themes arising out of the Sunday readings at the eucharist.  We are on the way to becoming an all-age cathedral, and that has to be good news. 

Library and Collections
The Library has been busy.  We welcomed researchers of many nationalities, to answer enquiries on a wide range of topics, and to provide an efficient reprographics service for private use, research needs and publication.  Publications based wholly or partly on Cathedral material include Michelle Brown, The Book and the Transformation of Britain, c.550-1050 (British Library, 2011), Karen Louise Jolly, The Community of St. Cuthbert in the Late Tenth Century: The Chester-le-Street Additions to Durham Cathedral Library A.IV.19 (Ohio State University Press, 2012) and Leslie Webster, Anglo-Saxon Art: A New History (British Museum, 2012).  We have supplied images for exhibition posters and publications at Grimes Graves, the Royal Academy, the Royal Armouries, Durham School and Kilmartin Glen. 

We continue to work with the other Durham libraries collecting theology to rationalise holdings.  A generous anonymous donation to the Library made it possible for us to acquire an early printed book owned by Thomas Swalwell, a monk of the Priory who died shortly before the Priory was dissolved.  Only one other copy is known of the book, Nicholas Denyse, Gemma Predicantium (Paris and Rouen, 1506).  The book is a collection of homilies from the sermons of Denyse, a French friar whose works received several editions during his lifetime and after his death in 1509.  The pre-1501 printed books are currently being catalogued by Sheila Hingley.

Work will also start on a shared project with the University to research and prepare for publication the late Dr Alan Piper’s catalogue of the Cathedral’s medieval manuscripts.  We shall also be lending items from the Cathedral’s collections to the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition and to other exhibitions in the UK and Germany, raising the profile of the Cathedral in anticipation of the launch of Open Treasure exhibitions.  

I should also mention the acquisition of the Cuthbert Gospel Book by the British Library, since this, like the Lindisfarne Gospel Book, once had an honoured place here in the library of the Cathedral Priory.  The selling price was £9 million, and the Cathedral was pleased, with the University, to be a formal partner in this fundraising project.  The Friends made a generous donation, as did a major anonymous donor who wished his gift to be channelled via the Cathedral.  The agreement with the British Library is that this precious book will be exhibited in Durham every two years for six months; 2013 will see its first visit alongside the Lindisfarne Gospel Book.  Last month I was privileged to give a short lecture on the Cuthbert Gospel at the British Library as part of the celebrations to mark the acquisition. 

Works & Property
Apart from Open Treasure, the year has seen a considerable number of other fabric projects begun, continued and ended.  The removal of the fence across the east elevation opposite St Chad’s College gives me particular pleasure.  I promised the Principal of St Chad’s that if I achieved nothing else during my time in Durham, I would bring down that necessary but ugly fence which, I am told, had been there for no less than 30 years.  I am sure you will agree that it is a real improvement. I am also glad to report that after a difficult year for access to the peninsula, Prebends’ Bridge is now open to light traffic again following its emergency repair, thanks to funding support from the Friends, the County Council and English Heritage.  We have seen several sections of riverbank walls repaired, the repaving of the north side of The College, and the construction of a new roof to the Priors Kitchen.  The Yard have also done all the stripping-out of the old Treasures ready for the Open Treasure contractors to move in during April.

Turning to the property portfolio, with John Holmes as the new Head of Property, perhaps this is the time to remind you that in addition to the Cathedral and The College precinct itself, we have responsibility for over 30 residential and commercial properties in the Durham and Shincliffe area, farm land covering over 2000 acres, investment portfolios in other parts of the country and numerous miscellaneous land and property interests.  John is leading a strategic review of these assets including the way in which we manage our property and facilities.  He is also in discussion with developers and planning authorities on lands that have future development potential and joint venturing, potentially an important source of income to the Cathedral.  All estate matters are now overseen by a new committee of the Chapter, the Property Committee, which is chaired by an independent member of the Council. 

The Head of Property role also includes energy management and exploring the potential for the Cathedral to invest in greener energy sources and more efficient energy purchasing. 

Education and the Chorister School
The Education Department achieved the prestigious honour of being a recipient of one of the national Sandford Awards.  These are given to heritage institutions for the excellence of their interpretation for young people and their activities with children of school age.  It was a delight to welcome Sandford award-winners from all over the country to the ceremony at which they were honoured.  This recognition underlines the first class work undertaken by the department.  The most recent example of this was last week’s re-enactment of the Coronation Service for schools, for which the department not only produced crowns and costumes, but also a horse and carriage for the child-Queen and her consort, and even managed to lay on wet, Coronation weather that famously engulfed London in June 1953.  Another memorable event was another large-scale day of activity and recollection for Holocaust Memorial Day in January, now an annual fixture.  As a 2nd generation Holocaust survivor myself, I believe it is vitally important that children should understand the terrible effects of genocide and be helped to create a kinder, better world for themselves and the generations who will follow. 

Turning to the Chorister School: at the end of the Headmistress’s first year with us, the school is buoyant and pupil numbers higher than they have ever been. Termly Open Days have been very well attended and we were delighted to have over 70 registered for the ‘Be a Chorister’ Open Day held in the Cathedral and the School in late May.

We are delighted that so many of the children in Year 8 will be moving onto their chosen secondary schools with Academic, Music, Drama, Art  and All-rounder awards to several of the top public schools in the country. In March we held a Senior Schools Forum when fifteen public schools visited to present on the many options available to our pupils when they move on at age 13. It is an important part of the work of a good prep school to offer advice in finding the best fit for children who remain with us to Year 8, and to work alongside parents when they make the vital decisions about secondary level schooling.

It is an annual pleasure to judge the school’s public speaking competition, always a hard assignment given the high quality of entries.  Music continues to be at the heart of what we do in the school.  No-one who came to last summer’s performances of The Pirates of Penzance will forget them.  The Michael James Music Competition made for an impressive celebration of the instrumental achievements of so many of the children. We look forward to the pupils’ concert in the Elvet Parish Church and to 7th July, when current pupils and staff will be joined by past pupils, parents, and friends of the school in a choral and brass evening in the Cathedral, featuring the Glorias of Vivaldi and Rutter.

If you have visited the school recently, you will have seen the refurbishment of the entrance hall, with its beautiful oak desk mirroring the cathedral pillars.  We are taking on 8 The College for additional and much needed classroom space for the Middle School.  Adaptations will be made in the boarding house to accommodate the increasing demand for flexi-boarding, and we will be starting work on the school library and archives.

The Cathedral Shop
 The Cathedral shop has firmly re-established itself as the leading theological book stockist in County Durham, if not even further afield. It is also developing an excellent range of gifts drawing on the treasures of the Cathedral. We now have The Manuscript Collection, a range of cards and stationery items using images from our manuscript and printed book collections. We shall shortly see the launch of The Embroidery Collection supporting and celebrating the work of our broderers. More importantly in these difficult financial times the shop is achieving good turnover and making a profit which is gift aided to the cathedral.

Despite the closure of the cloister entrance the restaurant is maintaining turnover and providing an excellent and appetising range of food. The manager, in conjunction with Cathedral colleagues, is further developing our fine dining and out of hours catering service of which, as an occasional client, I am a fervent enthusiast.

Resources & Finance
The new finance team has worked hard to overhaul the workings of the Finance department, with new systems and procedures, a new format to the management accounts and a variety of management information and key performance indicators now being provided to Chapter members and department heads on a regular basis.  This professionalization of the department was overdue and is warmly welcome.  As part of the same process, the post of Human Resources Manager was created last year, and I can assure you that this expertise in staffing and policy matters is making a real difference to the professional way in which all staff matters are now being handled. 

Much of the Finance Department’s work this year has been concerned with funding for Open Treasure.  It has been a challenging, and sometimes frustrating, task to set up loans that will guarantee adequate cash-flows when capital projects require funds to be paid up front.  However, we are indebted (figuratively and literally) to those who have supported us in securing loans to enable the project to begin, among them the Diocesan Board of Finance to whom we are especially grateful. We have many allies in the Diocese and the County who share our vision for the project and are prepared to help us make it succeed.  We are deeply thankful for so much good will and hard work. 

The revenue budget is tightly controlled as far as possible through limitation on costs and attempts to ease income upwards but the underlying deficit that is showing in our annual report and accounts is not sustainable in the long term.  This is why we are investing so heavily in Open Treasure to enable us not to charge for entry to the Cathedral.  We are hopeful and expectant.  But we need to run a tight ship for another three years before we shall begin to see the benefit.

We have appointed new auditors, UNW of Newcastle, who are currently working on the audit of the Cathedral’s accounts.  The finance team is looking forward to collaborating with them and to receiving constructive, strategic advice both during the audit and throughout the year.   

World Heritage Site
We continue to work closely with the University, our partners in the World Heritage Site. Highlights of the past year include the opening of the WHS Gateway at the top of Owengate which has become popular as a place for visitors to call in and collect information before visiting the site.  It also makes an excellent exhibition space.  It was converted from former alms houses and has won two design awards. We celebrated the 25th anniversary of Durham’s inscription as a world heritage site in 1986 with an enjoyable programme of activities and events, including some memorable drama by students in the Galilee Chapel and the Castle. 

We are looking forward to the new floodlighting for the Cathedral, which will enhance the appearance of the building at night while reducing the electricity consumption. It will complement the new floodlighting of the Castle which was switched on this year. A less obvious but nonetheless very important project for the coming year is the revision of the management plan; initial work on the review is a reminder of how much has been achieved in the last few years.

I haven’t spoken in recent years about volunteers, so I should like to do so now.  Every cathedral and church owes so much to the willingness of men, women and children to volunteer.  This country has been good at developing a volunteering culture as part of good citizenship; you only have to visit a French cathedral to realise that we are hugely fortunate to be able to call on so many volunteers who are almost wholly lacking in cathedral life there. Many of you volunteer in the Cathedral, and I want to take this opportunity of saying thank you. 

On top of those who volunteer in the library, in services or in other ways, nearly 500 volunteers give up their time to welcome visitors to the Cathedral.  Each session is 3½ hours and most volunteers give a session every two weeks.  Inevitably some do much more and others less but there are a number who, even though they work full time, are still prepared to give a session per month.  The team of Senior Stewards who look after either a whole day or a session continue to give invaluable service in preparing the six monthly rotas and managing ‘their’ volunteers on a day to day basis.

During last winter, 15 additional guides were trained using a combination of formal sessions and mentoring by experienced guides.  Stewards wishing to be a guide have to apply, undertake an interview and commit to all the training sessions.  This level of commitment allows not only the generation of a welcome amount of income but also gives visitors a special insight into the Cathedral, its history and life today.

We continue to be grateful to the team of people, mostly retired clergy, who serve every day in the Cathedral as voluntary chaplains. We hear stories, sometimes years later, of how their ministry of being available to visitors, volunteers and staff is appreciated. The stories we do hear are no doubt the tip of a benign iceberg and this unheralded ministry, along with that of the Listeners from Durham Christian Partnership who attend each morning, quietly touches and even changes many people’s lives.

Staff Changes

A faithful member of the Foundation died this year, Canon Patrick Kent. We are deeply thankful for his long life and influential ministry in this diocese. 

We thank staff who have left the Cathedral in the past year and wish them well for the future.  These include: Jon Williams (Land Agent), Jean Doloughan (his secretary who has served 43 years in the office), Graham Foster (Head Gardener), Keith Wright (Sub-Organist), The Reverend David Sudron (Sacrist), Oliver Brett (Assistant Organist), Christopher Downs (Consulting Architect), and the Treasures Custodians who have all retired following the closure of the exhibition in preparation for Open Treasure.    

We have welcomed new members to the Foundation: The Reverend Rosemary Nixon (installed as Pastor to the Cathedral Community), and Canons Alan Bartlett, Raymond Dick, David Glover, Alec Harding, Judy Hirst and of course the newly elected Chairman of the Friends, David Hunt. 

We have welcomed staff who have joined us in the past year and hope that they will be happy in their time here.  These include: John Holmes (Head of Property), Jacqui Brown (Head of Finance having previously been in the acting role), Nicky Crombie (Human Resources Manager), Francesca Massey (Sub-Organist), Katharine Saunders (Fundraising Officer), Lindsey Simmonds (Property Team Administrator), Samantha Forster (Group Travel Officer) and Peter Bennett (joinery apprentice, for whose funding we are grateful for the support from Durham City Freemen).  We have also welcomed Peter Tiplady (Restaurant Manager for Avenance UK who hold the franchise).

I want to pay tribute to the retiring Chairman of the Friends, Dr Bill Apedaile.  I have worked alongside him for the whole of his time in this role.  Although you do not need me to tell you this, he has been tireless in the energy and commitment he has put into the Friends, always going the second and third mile to support events and activities, chair meetings, broker key conversations between the Friends and the Chapter, and in countless other ways demonstrate through his kindness and generosity his complete commitment not only to the Friends but to the Cathedral.  I think he was perhaps never prouder than when the Transfiguration Window was dedicated in 2010, a marvellous monument to Cathedral Friends far and near who funded it.  We recently celebrated his 80th birthday, and you would not have known that the night before, his home suffered from a serious fire which has had far-reaching effects on his domestic life.  I want on behalf of the Cathedral Chapter to thank him from our hearts for all that he has given us during his years of office.  We are hugely grateful and wish him a long and happy retirement.

And I want to end by welcoming our new Chairman, Canon David Hunt.  He has already been introduced to the meeting, so I won’t rehearse his credentials, except to say that as a long-time member of the Cathedral Community whose memory goes back to the time of Dean Eric Heaton, he brings not only a wealth of knowledge and experience to the role but, more important, what we have also seen in our retiring Chairman, a deep commitment to this place and all that it stands for.  We thank him for being willing to take on this role, and assure him of our prayers and support. 

9 June 2012

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