Reflections 2012: Lincoln Cathedral’s positive impact on the local economy

The year draws to a close with Lincoln Cathedral staff and volunteers bending but not broken, as John Campbell, the Deans Verger, likes to put it. It rather gives a lie to the old joke, ‘Vicar, what do you do on the other six days of the week?’

My abiding memory from my first full year as Chapter Clerk and Chief Executive of this astonishing institution will surely be of busyness. It no longer surprises me that the Cathedral has a significant positive impact on the local and wider economy. I just have to think back to August and that period between the end of the Olympics and the start of the Paralympics when we were all at loss for what to watch on TV. In Lincoln it was more than punctuated by the Flower Festival, Dreams of Gold. It was lovely to see the Cathedral Quarter buzzing with life, with shops and cafes full. The Cathedral itself welcomed no fewer than 14,000 visitors.

Three months later we joined with Lincoln Castle in running a Celebration of Food and Farming alongside the famous Sausage Festival and welcomed 5,000 people into the nave. Over the Christmas Market we welcomed another 22,000 or so. This ability to attract and welcome so many people may well be part of the key to dealing with our never ending money struggles but also, working with Visit Lincoln and Lincoln Castle, the development of Lincoln into the top visitor destination it so clearly deserves to be.

At the heart of what we do remains the daily round of prayer where every aspect of life is brought before God. This combines six days a week with music that is truly world class. Again, two high points: in March the Cathedral choir performed the St John Passion, but then in November Handel’s Messiah and, it is still happening, I still tingle as I write. It was an outstanding performance. I truly hope that the choir will find time in its very busy schedule for more performances of that scale and quality.

None of this would be possible were we not working hard at the challenge that English Heritage has set us by placing the building on their ‘at risk’ register. We have to find and then spend £1.6 million a year on restoring the building. The standing of our works department was underlined by their presence at the end of September at the International Preservation Trades Network conference in Charleston, USA.

Looking ahead to 2013 we have an astonishing event in June where for the first time in probably eight centuries we will have 150 or so masons on the East Green as they gather for the European Stone Festival.

More generally in 2013, we have set ourselves the challenge of engaging more people in what we are doing and encouraging them to give regularly to enable us to continue our work.


— Phil Hamlyn Williams is the Chapter Clerk and Chief Executive at Lincoln Cathedral