In which we serve
Liverpool’s mighty Anglican Cathedral certainly has the wow factor. So it’s no surprise that, increasingly, it’s a venue of choice when it comes to showcasing the very best the city has to offer.
Our Anglican cathedral, whatever your religious persuasion (or lack of) truly is a place of awe – its soaring Gothic arches (the world’s largest) rise above a cavernous space of contemplation and celebration.
And, increasingly, this spiritual hub is the suitably impressive backdrop for some of the city’s most enthralling and exciting live events too.
Director of Enterprise, Eryl Parry has, in it’s Liverpool’s opinion, one of the best mission statements in the city: To provide a safe place to do risky things in Christ’s service.
Parry runs the activities of the Cathedral that generate its vital ‘earned’ income, footfall and connections with the city and the world beyond.
These days, a voluntary donation box simply isn’t enough to keep our mighty religious spaces vibrant, let alone standing!
“The Cathedral was built by the people of Liverpool for the people of Liverpool.”
And so it’s down to extra-curricular money spinners; the shop, catering, attractions, events and visitor services – to keep our Cathedrals open, day in, day out.
Fortunately, our Cathedrals (both of them) do this with passion, skill and obvious attention to detail. Their refectories serve the tastiest lunches in the city, and their events – from the beer festival of the Metropolitan Cathedral’s crypt to the Sound City gigs at the Anglican – are usually of the ‘not to be missed’ variety.
“Really the job is two-fold,” Parry says, “Creatively generating enterprise income for the Cathedral (as opposed to donations which are equally important as a source of income!) and in doing so, making relationships. Those relationships are with those we serve and those we work with.
Has the Cathedral always been used for other events than religious services?
Oh yes, The Bee Gees played here in 1965! Of course, compared to the huge Sound City events this year, they don’t bear comparison. But there is a sense of continuity here. The Cathedral was built by the people of Liverpool for the people of Liverpool. It was designed by a 22 year old architect and we like to think the Cathedral still reflects the vigour and ambition of youth. It’s always been pioneering and at the heart of city life. But of course the city itself too has both that strong sense of place that comes from heritage and character, and it keeps growing and changing.
How many requests do you get to use the space?
The Cathedral diary often feels more like an air traffic control flight path with events hovering to get in – on a day to day basis in different parts of the building and of course in the booking system as events move from enquiry stage to delivery! The Cathedral is principally a place of worship and it’s the almost monastic rhythm of prayer that gives the place its special spiritual quality.
What sort of requests are you likely to turn down?
We have a commitment to the public to be open daily 8am – 6pm. That means we can play a leading role in the visitor economy and hold our daily pattern of services. There are a few occasions in the year when a large daytime event is important to the city – like graduation ceremonies – when visiting is restricted, but we never say we are closed, we always have to find a way that someone wanting to come in for prayer or lighting a candle can do so.
Do you feel there is a conflict here, of a house of God being used for dance parties or fashion shows?
At the risk of repetition – but perhaps it’s needed because it’s the basis of all we do, we regard enterprise as integral to the mission of the Cathedral – because of its capacity to generate key cultural and commercial partnerships, and a high profile in the visitor economy of the city and region.
Some events naturally open up possibilities to grab unhelpful headlines or comment. We simply have to make sure that we have considered every aspect of that event carefully, work closely with the organisers to ensure that they can run it successfully and we are able to answer any questions.
What particular challenges are there to using the Cathedral as a venue?
The jaw-dropping nature of its scale and beauty requires a high level of skill and knowledge of contractors working on an event such as audio-visual companies. Those working regularly here know how to light the building to give it that extra ‘wow factor’ for a truly spectacular event and to conquer the acoustic time-delay so that everyone hears the notes and words in a way that does justice to the performer or speaker. We have an amazing asset in this city. Britain’s biggest cathedral, an architectural masterpiece that blows away every newcomer, features that add value to many big occasions like the country’s largest organ that can be played by masters of the instrument and a team that operates over a wide set of activities to ensure the Cathedral plays a central role in Liverpool’s regeneration.
What are your most memorable events?
2008 was a blur of back to back programming. Hugely important in repositioning the Cathedral in people’s perceptions of what’s possible in this spectacular space and there were certainly highlights like Paul McCartney’s Ecce Cor Meum and Dreamthinkspeak’s One step forward, one step back, a mind-blowing sell-out site-specific production. But in terms of teamwork (and that’s what the coordination of large events are all about) I’d say for very different reasons, the 3 Cunard concerts we’ve put on for the QE2 and QE passengers – all 2,000 of them at a time!
For more information about Liverpool cathedral, visit www.liverpoolcathedral.org.uk