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Cathedral puts on its party frock

Melanie Mingas finds out how a 1420s building is about to be glammed up

Published on April 13th 2010.

Cathedral puts on its party frock

Those seeking a truly heavenly dining experience will be pleased to hear Manchester Cathedral is to feed the five thousand.

“It costs over £1m a year just to open the doors and run all our projects and this is a way of helping to pay for that. The Cathedral is used by school children, for homeless projects and some vast work within the community.”

Well 800. A select group of local businesses have been invited to an inaugural dinner on Tuesday 27 April to enjoy a “deliciously designed menu, exceptional service and an evening out of the ordinary.”

Inspired by similar events in other cathedrals, the plan, according to Dean Rogers Govender, is to “raise awareness of the Cathedral's role in the city community.”

It's not the first time the church has diversified from the bread and wine theme. In 2008 the aisles were transformed into catwalks for designers Y-3 and, more recently, Harvey Nichols has utilised the holy space.

Director of development Anthony O'Connor said: “It costs over £1m a year just to open the doors and run all our projects and this is a way of helping to pay for that. The Cathedral is used by school children, for homeless projects and some vast work within the community.

“We're looking to arrange and host twenty to thirty events a year.”

But what about criticism from some quarters that running events such as Gala Dinners in the nave of the Cathedral is an inappropriate use of a religious building.

“When the Cathedral was built in medieval times,” says O'Connor, “it was the community centre for the town, where people from every walk of life came together. Then the Victorians filled the space with furniture and started using it only during services. We want to take the Cathedral back to its original role as the place where the community can come together to engage with each other. This is not a new idea at all.”

Merseyside based chefs Pickled Walnut have been drafted in to cater the event. As regular gourmets at Liverpool Cathedral, they're well versed on constructing portable kitchens in historic buildings.

Founded and run by chefs Jamie Anderson and Mark Kershaw, Pickled Walnut have cooked for Gordon Brown, Martina Hingis and even Prince Charles. Athough not at the same time.

And while the Cathedral may have taken six hundred years to develop, the transformation from Cathedral to venue takes just twenty-four hours.

Fiona Guy, from promoters ImpactMedia, said: “The sound, lights and kitchen equipment can all be set up quickly and around other groups already using the building.

“It may be difficult to imagine the Cathedral transformed, so this dinner will people the opportunity to experience an evening here in a more traditional sense.”

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5 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

BeelzebubApril 13th 2010.

Hang on, how's a swanky do for businesses going to demonstrate how the cathedral is the "the community centre for the town, where people from every walk of life came together"? Surely, if they want to show that, they should throw open the party to the poor and needy like in the parable of Jebus.

emmawhitefieldApril 15th 2010.

Im guessing they're opening it to local businesses to show the potential of the space, in the hopes that it will generate more interest and put the Cathedral in peoples minds as an entertaining space as well as a place of worship. I think it's a fantastic idea and great that such an amazing building can be enjoyed by lots of different people in different ways.

GigGoerApril 15th 2010.

Off to see Noah & The Whale there later in the year. If it means they can keep a roof on the place then why not.

BeelzebubApril 15th 2010.

Or, Emmawhitefield, they are throwing open their doors to make money (which is more likely). Jebus had a solution for those who would turn his temple into a den of theives. And that was to throw them out. The Church of England, founded as it was from lust and avarice, would have the good lord turning in his shroud. Personally, as a satanist, I couldn't care less, it's just the hypocricy that riles me.

NeedtoknowbasisApril 15th 2010.

Ah Beelzebub well done. I don't think there are enough satanists around. Maybe we could have a festival in Manchester? I'd rather have the Cathedral engaging with society even commercially, but specifically commercially if it means that the beautiful building has enough money to maintain itsel.

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