Guest blog by Anthony O'Connor, Director of Fundraising and Development at Manchester Cathedral

Manchester Cathedral has been the City’s focal place of worship for over 600 years; in fact, the first church appeared on the site in 632. Being the site of the birth place of Manchester and Salford it has witnessed the life of the city ebbing and flowing around the cathedral with new buildings being built and old ones demolished. We have suffered wartime and peacetime bombs but we have always re-built and come back stronger as a united and peaceful city. 

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the IRA’s bombing which caused so much destruction, but thankfully no loss of life. That terrible act is widely regarded as the catalyst which resulted in the wholesale transformation of Manchester which now sits on a par with other great cities around the world. 

This July we will celebrate the city’s resilience and determination to re-build, a determination that has been evident ever since that terrible day in July 1996. On the 1st July Manchester Cathedral on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government will host a national service of commemoration to mark the Battle of the Somme in the presence of HRH The Duke of York, members of the Government and representatives of the nations which served on the Somme. 

It is interesting that at the same time we will witness the finishing touches being put to 101 Embankment, an evolving scheme which we have watched with interest ever since Carillion began work on site last year. When it is finished the 165,000 sq ft Grade ‘A’ office building will stand 10-storeys tall and will be home to hundreds, if not thousands, of people all of whom will working at the very beating heart of this great city. 

The Embankment strapline ‘Where Everything Comes Together’ caught my eye as we certainly find this to be true of life in our neighbourhood which is now known as Manchester’s Medieval Quarter. 

While the Cathedral’s function is primarily that of worship, I believe that what makes it really unique is the place it holds in the heart of the community and its desire to help and serve the people of Greater Manchester, from all faiths and none.

To facilitate this connection with the community we have developed many strategic partnerships with key cultural and heritage organisations which also play an important part in encouraging regional, national and overseas visitors.

Over the years we have introduced a range of events to enhance and support the city’s cultural calendar including 60 music concerts by artists such as Elbow and Alicia Keys.

We welcome through our doors each year over 4000 school children to learn about the Cathedral’s role in modern life and have hosted numerous corporate and cultural events. 

Last month’s exhibition at the Cathedral was ‘360/365/MCR’, supported by Ask, Carillion and Tristan, the Joint Venture partnership behind Embankment. It was hosted by photographer Robert Watson who documented the ever-changing face of the city centre over the past five years. Watson also recorded time-lapse images showing Embankment’s progress. 

We also have a number of highly trained Cathedral guides who lead tours that chart the area's history through the centuries to present day. This includes the arrival of the National Football Museum, the launch of the Corn Exchange, the draw of retail giants Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, the regeneration of Victoria Station, improvement works to Chetham’s School of Music and of course now the emergence of Embankment. 

To maintain this robust and valuable sense of community partnership the Dean of Manchester, The Very Reverend Rogers Govender, chairs frequent meetings that bring together the cluster of Heritage Associations, The Printworks, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, local pubs and hotels and neighbourhood teams from Manchester City Council. We look forward to extending this partnership to include the eventual occupants of this magnificent office development which sits right on our doorstep. 

Such partnerships also aid and support the Cathedral’s own Development Project which is focusing on maintaining and improving the fabric of our ancient building. With annual running costs of £1.2m and total capital project costs of £17m we are always seeking to secure funding and these partnerships are crucial to supporting this work.

The Cathedral’s vision is to contribute to the prosperity of Manchester not only spiritually, but also socially and economically. 

As the Dean himself says: “We are a Cathedral for all people and seek to offer a warm and generous welcome to the whole community of Greater Manchester and beyond. Our call is to add value to the spiritual, cultural and economic offer of this great city and region; the people of Manchester deserve our very best endeavours.”

To find out more about the Cathedral visit www.manchestercathedral.org