Just in case you do not know anything about them, the Friends of Truro Cathedral are - as their own website would have it – ‘a group of people who support their cathedral by fund raising for vital projects’. They are their own independent charity, and much of their fundraising is delivered by raising the ‘fun’ level of our lives by organising ‘interesting and fun events for cathedral friends and the wider community which promote friendship and fellowship’. The cathedral’s life is administered on a day to day basis by chapter, and chapter and the ‘Friends’ meet over the table of the Friends Council, where the decision making happens, as to how their accumulated funds might be spent.
The Council is, turn and turnabout, chaired by either a member of chapter or a member of the Friends - and I write these few words as the soon to be retired chairman, in thanks for all that has been achieved in the three years I have held that office. These achievements have seen no less than £202k spent on capital projects and sustaining aspects of cathedral life – the detail and variety of all of that is offered below.
· Renewal of the cathedral toilets 2018/2019 - £128k – an obvious benefit both to the cathedral and the wider community.
· South Porch netting, March 2018 - £3.5k
This was a means to prevent pigeons nesting in the porch and the natural consequences that result from that nesting, for those who then have to walk through it.
· CCTV, July 2019 - £1.6k
We are proud of the fact that we are a big public space that anyone can enter. This simply upgraded cameras that help in keeping staff and volunteers safe as we deal daily with the joys – and sometimes challenges – of responding to the people who take up the invitation and come in.
· Narthex Mats, October 2019 - £600
These, very simply, help to prevent slips and trips for those coming into the building in wet weather.
· Car Park, December 2019 - £24k
I have joked with people that we were on the verge of launching guided tours around some of the more impressive potholes in the car park. This did not simply fill them in, but renewed the whole thing.
In addition to these physical offerings the Friends give, each year, a small annual grant to the cathedral’s music department and offer some funding to the work of the Flower Guild. In their final donation of my time they also helped the cathedral’s ongoing life considerably.
Like any other business, institution, or charity, we face obvious consequences to the ‘lockdown’ we have experienced in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. With the cathedral closed, income from both shop and restaurant are lost, donations from visitors are not made and additional income arising from cathedral events is not received. We realise of course that we are not alone in seeking to survive financially in the face of this and behind the scenes, those staff who have not been furloughed, have been working hard to address this. One thing we did do was to ask the Friends if they might help. As a result, an interesting and good-humoured, cyber world debate, took place among Council members who could not physically meet. In the end the Council granted £38k to chapter which represents all the funds they then had available to them.
There will not be a plaque commemorating this donation, ever attached to anything physical. It will help though, alongside government schemes and other measures, in our sustaining the lives of the cathedral as we look for better and safer days to return – it also helps for now, to keep us from a cash-flow crisis. On behalf of Chapter I thank the Friends for it, as I thank them and the supporters that sit behind them, for all they have given to our lives, as those who gather at Truro Cathedral, in these past three years.
Alan Bashforth – Chairman (almost retired)