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Interviewing Durham Cathedral: RIBA Award winners 2018

06 November 2019

In 2018, Durham Cathedral Open Treasure won a RIBA Regional Award, Regional Conservation Award, RIBA North East Building of the Year Award and a RIBA National Award. RIBA North East emailed the team at the Cathedral about what their work post win.

Did you find you had increased publicity/visitors after winning RIBA Awards?

2018 saw the presentation of 'Miners: Pitmen, Pride and Prayer' which ran from 19 June to 15 September and 'Armistice: Living with the Peace' commemorating the 100th anniversary of the armistice, running from 25 September to 2 February. Open Treasure was fortunate in receiving the RIBA Awards during the Miners: Pitmen, Pride and Prayer exhibition, and while it is difficult to quantify the effects of this publicity in terms of footfall, it is certainly true to say that Open Treasure had a successful summer, with their visitor figures exceeding their usual average.

What do you think the regional awards bring to the region?

Not only do the regional awards we received bring a sense of recognised excellence and prestige, but they also serve as a reassurance to the region that our conservation and maintenance works are of high quality. This reassurance strengthens the bond between the cathedral and the community, highlighting our passion for maintaining and securing the cathedral for future generations. In addition to this, it is important that stunning architecture is recognised and commended outside of the typical cosmopolitan areas of the UK: the regional awards offer an opportunity to celebrate what is unique about the North East, which is always lovely.

On a personal note, these awards cement a 150-year long relationship that the cathedral and RIBA have developed and fostered. George Gilbert Scott, one of the recipients of RIBA’s Royal Gold Medal, is not only well known for his extraordinary architectural mind with regards to St Pancras Train Station, but also for his work on Durham Cathedral in 1859 and again in 1874.

What you have been up to post win?

We have hosted a number of successful exhibitions in Open Treasure since winning the RIBA Awards. Namely, 'Vikings in Northumbria', which ran from 11 June to 28 September 2019, and our new exhibition Mapping the World, which we are displaying from 7 October to 18 January 2020. In the wider context, we have been busy raising awareness of our great Norman church and UNESCO World Heritage Site on both a regional and national basis. We re-opened the Central Tower after three years of essential repairs and conservation on 1 June 2019. We even made it on to BBC Breakfast, with the weather broadcast live from the top of the tower! This work would not have been possible if it had not been for the generous sponsorship from our official tower sponsors, Baldwins Accountants.

You recently held a Stone Auction at Durham Cathedral: can you tell us the reason why you decided to do this and how much money have you raised so far?

There are many reasons why we decided to hold a stone auction. We had a large amount of stone that had been removed from the Central Tower during its restoration from 2016 to 2019 which we simply could not continue to house. Rather than throw away beautiful and unique parts of the cathedral’s fabric, we thought we would offer the local community, patrons, corporate partners and those from further afield who have a connection with the cathedral the opportunity to own a piece of the cathedral for themselves. We wanted all interested parties to be able to own a piece of the 150-year-old history that they felt connected to, and for those locally to own a significant part of their heritage. The idea all along was for the money raised at auction to go towards our Foundation 2020 campaign to create an endowment fund of £10 million. The interest generated from this money will then be used to pay for the general day-to-day maintenance and care of the cathedral in perpetuity. Holding the stone auction was a great opportunity to raise funds for the 2020 campaign, and with match funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund we knew we could double the total raised.

We hoped to raise around £15,000 at the auction on 19 October but were overjoyed to raise an astounding £62,891: which, with match funding added, came to a phenomenal total of £125,782.

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