31 March 2022
Aside from its primary purpose as a place of worship, the cathedral hosts everything from charity events to orchestras, comedy evenings to conferences.
So it was a testing time for the staff at the cathedral when the first lockdown happened and they had to change the way they worked – and how people were able to worship.
Kate Sussams, director of operations at Newcastle Cathedral, says: “All the staff were absolute heroes.
“People worked extremely hard from their bedrooms or kitchens to keep the Cathedral going, doing live streaming (a massive new skill) and planning new seating arrangements for services and events once we could start re-opening the building.
“For example, doing a large concert with social distancing was quite a challenge but we rose to it and carried it out successfully.
“We are a small team here at the cathedral so people stepped up more than we could ever thank them for to engage with our customers and stakeholders in a completely new way.”
The cathedral had been due to be closed in 2020 in order for an extensive renovation programme to be carried out as part of a £6m refurbishment and revival project which had been in the planning for 13 years.
Nonetheless, Kate and the cathedral team worked hard to keep in touch with their usual clients who would normally book the spectacular venue for events, particularly around Christmas which in 2020 could not take place.
These included local charities such as Marie Curie and Crisis as well as the Women’s Institute and a charity which is very close to people’s hearts in the North East.
Kate explains: “One big client who we have an excellent relationship with is the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, who organise a large and extremely popular benefit concert for the charity each year.
“It’s a long lead-in time for the event so they didn’t manage to organise one for 2020 or 2021 but they have just confirmed for 2022, which is great.
“It’s very popular and always a sell-out with around 750 tickets sold and a significant collection at the end which also goes to the charity, which funds projects that directly benefit cancer patients from across North East England and Cumbria.
“It was effectively put on hold for two years due to Covid so we’re absolutely delighted that they want to hold it again.
“We also have a number of new clients booking for 2022, including a series of monthly comedy shows and a large concert with the Strictly Smoking Big Band in June, plus other big concerts including the St John’s Ambulance (featuring the Coldstream Guards) and the Soweto Gospel Choir, both later in the year.”
A little closer to home in many respects – and a major boon for the wider local economy – is an event taking place in May.
The National Cathedrals Conference has chosen Newcastle Cathedral as its host for the 2022 running of this key event in the ecclesiastical calendar.
Organised by the Association of English Cathedrals, the event from May 16 to 19 will see key players from English Cathedrals gather to discuss recent global and national change and exchange ideas on the challenges and opportunities for the future direction of the Church and society.
Kate Sussams says: “It’s a huge event in our industry so it is fantastic that it is being held here in Newcastle as it’s only been held once before and that was in Manchester.
“The organisers wanted a brilliant city with great infrastructure, great transport links, excellent hotels and fantastic dining places and they’ve got all that here.
“There are a number of major speakers lined up, many of them big in the ecclesiastical sector such as the Archbishop of York, and we have former Prime Minister Sir John Major, who will be opening the Conference.
“There’ll be about 400 delegates at the event and the organisers have worked with NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau to secure brilliant hotel deals and eating deals.
“We wanted the conference to have a real Newcastle flavour and it will certainly do that – it will be a brilliant showcase for the city and everything it has to offer.”
Events such as the National Cathedrals Conference underline the capacity of NewcastleGateshead as a destination to host business meetings and events – and the many benefits which they bring to the local area and the local economy.
This is the essence of the Tyne To Get Back To Business campaign and proof positive of NewcastleGateshead’s ability to bounce back from the pandemic to safely host face to face business meetings, events and conferences.