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Abstract

This paper investigates the recent trend for cathedrals in England to develop a wider and more ambitious scope to their event and activity programmes. It sets out to explore the types of events now hosted at cathedrals, to consider barriers to such ambitions and the opportunities presented by event programming to develop new audiences and grow attendances. The research focuses on the 42 Anglican cathedrals of England and has involved a review of recent reports published by church and cathedral organisations, supported by an in-depth review of event activity and objectives at five selected cathedrals in southern England.

Despite declining general church attendance in England, cathedrals have enjoyed two decades of attendance growth both as places of worship and as tourist attractions, partly a reflection of a more complex contemporary search for multi-faceted types of spirituality. The paper explores how events can tap into the realm of individual spiritual capital and demonstrates the rich diversity of events now being hosted by cathedrals. The paper offers a new categorisation of ecclesiastical / liturgical events, cultural and community events and openly commercial event activity. Barriers remain but key facilitating factors have been new investment in event expertise and professionalism, encouragement to experiment by key funding bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and the embracing of new forms of spirituality. The diversity of cathedral events reflects a new found growth in the nurturing of ‘spiritual capital’ amongst both worshippers and tourists.

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