In the House of Commons yesterday, Michael Fabricant said that Lichfield Cathedral is a shining example to other places of worship at how to attract visitors including those who do not wish to worship there. Michael says: "Lichfield Cathedral attracts thousands of visitors each year. Some come to worship, some come to tour the building, while many others come to the non-religious events held in and around the Cathedral. By attracting so many additional visitors, it not only draws people to the Cathedral who might not otherwise visit as they do not wish to pray there, it helps the economy of our City. I believe that Lichfield Cathedral is setting an example which other places of worship throughout the UK should follow."
There now follows the exchange that took place in the House of Commons on Monday 21st March:
1. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): What guidelines are given by the commissioners to the councils of churches and cathedrals concerning the accessibility of such buildings to people other than those wishing to worship.
Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Stuart Bell): The commissioners recognise that our churches and cathedrals are not just for worshippers; they attract millions of visitors, generating £91 million a year for the economy and supporting 2,600 jobs. Our cathedrals and churches bring educational, musical, artistic and community activity, as well as the spiritual. The commissioners are therefore happy to encourage such accessibility.
Michael Fabricant: Would the hon. Gentleman be surprised to hear that, in Lichfield cathedral, for example, there were 83 concerts last year? Some 5,000 people attended those concerts and recitals and a further 10,000 people came to the Close in Lichfield to visit the mediaeval market. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear!"] Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there needs to be some co-operation between cathedrals so that best practice can be adopted and that Lichfield sets the example?
Sir Stuart Bell: As the hon. Gentleman will know, I visited Lichfield cathedral last year, and I listened to a concert and also saw many mediaeval books in the library. It was a significant and impressive experience. Certainly, the cathedrals would wish to work together in best practice, but when we see people coming to our churches and cathedrals for purposes other than worship, we enjoy the idea that they might also participate in the worship-but not in the middle of a Mozart concert.