As the Lent, Holy Week, and Easter Season reached its climax at Pentecost, so the warmth of the Summer months arrives and the Minster Parochial Church Council enters a new season. Last Monday the Minster Council met and had a large agenda to consider. Under Matters Arising was a further discussion about the Minster Tourism Strategy, as we observe a continued increase in visitor numbers, both casual visitors and from events. Through the Minster Development Board and Lloyds Banking Group all our wonderful Welcomers have been trained in Customer First skills, looking to ensure that our hospitality is consistent and of a high quality. One only has to look at Trip Adviser to see how good some of our Welcomers are when hosting visitors. We’ve been successful with an application to the Bishop’s Development Fund for a small amount of money to improve signage and interpretation around the Minster, match funded, we hope, by Lloyds Banking Group. Many of you will have seen new signs outside the Visitors Centre at the new Library and outside EUREKA car park. Last month 12 Guides were trained to provide Guided Tours of the Minster, interpreting both the heritage and the Christian faith. We have seen a significant increase in the number of groups requesting guided tours, and it our intention to provide guided tours throughout the summer to visitors, in partnership with the Visitors Centre and refreshments provided by The Friends. Gary Knapton has taken over from John Hardy as Shop Manager, and we have both new stock on Order and following a visit from Design and Display, we hope to provide some new display units, improving the entire visitor experience of the Minster. By the time visitors leave we hope they will want to tell others just how good the experience was and to return another day.

On Monday the Church Council approved the introduction of new Choir stalls in the Nave, which are being given to us by Ely Cathedral, who no longer have need of them. They were first designed by George Pace for St Alban’s Abbey, and then later transferred to Ely, and now hopefully to Halifax. They will require modification before they arrive, and a Faculty Application is being submitted. Drawings will be on display at the back of the Minster. Having put the new floor in place along with the new dais, it’s time now to finish off the project with new choir stalls, altar, and lectern. The design of the choir stalls will now dictate the design work of the altar and lectern, which we hope will follow on shortly.

The other major discussion item came from the Minster Development Board, with a proposal to submit a new application to the Heritage Lottery Board. This would include repair to the fabric of the building as identified in the Quinquennial Report, re-lighting the building, the introduction of the Treasury, (now to be in the tower) and additional toilets and new Kitchen area at the West End. Approval in principle was given so the application can be worked up, with a draft to be presented at the next meeting, and a submission made in August.

In addition to all of this, a major discussion took placed with regard to the Harrison Organ, following a visit by an independent Organ Advisor, whose report we are awaiting. It was clear that he viewed the organ as a Rolls Royce of an instrument, and that we were so lucky to be custodians of such a fine instrument. The organ will feature several times in the Minster Summer Festival – I hope everyone will come enjoy what will be on offer over 10 days of visual and performing arts.