Places of worship and the visiting public

On the 21st May, I attended the Annual Conference of the Historic Churches Liaison Group (HCLG) for County Churches Trusts. The conference was held in Birmingham, in the Grimshaw room attached to St Chad’s Cathedral, there were 70 attendees at the meeting with 27 of those from various county trusts from around the country.

This was the first meeting of this group that I have attended and the day didn’t get off to a good start, as I was a mile down the road to the station before I realised I had left my tickets on my desk back home! Time however was on my side so all was well in the end.

The meeting opened with words of welcome from Luke March, the newly elected chairman of the National Churches Trust. He was followed by Ian Morrison, head of historic environment conservation at the Heritage Lottery Fund who gave the keynote speech. He delivered a most interesting talk in which he clearly explained the number of avenues  open to churches to apply for funding from the HLF and the criteria they have to satisfy in order to be successful. For the smaller grants the procedures are not onerous and therefore, we as a county trust should encourage churches to look more closely at this source of funding, to see if it might be helpful to them in the future.

The topic “Places of worship and the visiting public” was covered by 3 people, one of whom was Sarah Crossland from our own South Yorkshire. Sarah is currently National Support Officer for the NCT.

In the afternoon I attended a workshop on ‘Promotion and Publicity’ for trusts and places of worship lead by Eddie Tulasiewicz who helps the NCT with their publicity. The main thrust was how to widen the involvement and participation in county trusts. Social media sites, websites, schools, colleges, universities and press coverage were all part of the discussion with many representatives reporting difficulties in persuading members to take on leading roles within the trusts. As is often the case with meetings of this nature, your own concerns are often the same concerns of others.

Peter Johnston