Visitor Services Manager Helen Graham addresses the volunteer meeting.

Belfast Cathedral’s team of dedicated volunteers had an opportunity to learn more about innovative plans for marketing and events when they came together for an update from Dean Stephen Forde and his staff team on Thursday February 22.

The event, held in the Chapel of Unity, was organised by Visitor Services Manager Helen Graham and Marketing and Events Manager Holly Wilson, and a large number of the Cathedral’s 35 regular volunteers were in attendance, along with full and part-time staff members.

It was an opportunity for many of the volunteers to be properly introduced to Dean Forde, who was installed in St Anne’s at the start of February.  Welcoming everyone, he said the Cathedral was a ‘vast undertaking,’ both in terms of the size of the building and the size of the team.

Dean Stephen Forde welcomes the volunteers to the meeting.

To the volunteers, he said: “You are the people that make it happen. It is tremendous that so many of you are willing to give your time and talents and your expertise, enthusiasm and your availability.”

The Dean said the volunteers, working with Helen and Holly, had an important role to play in promoting the Cathedral as a tourist venue. He emphasised too that this is first and foremost a place of prayer in the heart of the city.

The roles of Visitor Services Manager and Marketing Manager are funded by a grant from Heritage Lottery Fund, with funds from this grant also covering other aspects of visitor promotion, including development of a marketing strategy which is nearing completion.

Helen outlined visitor numbers and income, and reported a very positive 50 per cent increase in visitors in January this year compared to January 2017. She also spoke about the Gift Shop, and said volunteers would be able to avail of training opportunities if they wished.

Volunteers listening to the presentation by the Cathedral marketing and events team.

Holly spoke about the event planning and co-ordination process, and the opportunities available for volunteers to be involved in events taking place in the Cathedral.

She highlighted a number of key events taking place in the next few weeks including a Wedding Fair; a St Patrick’s concert being filmed by the BBC, Belfast Fashion Week and the BelFeast dinner. Further information on these events can be found in our online calendar.

Holly referred to various marketing tools including social media, and features targeted at business publications.

Master of the Choristers David Stevens talked to the volunteers about the work of the Music Department and how they could be involved, and Dean’s Vicar the Rev Canon Mark Niblock spoke on behalf of the clergy. He described the Cathedral as ‘a unique place’ in Belfast with a mission and a vision to minister to the whole city.

Music Department representatives Dave Stevens (right), Dr Ed Jones (centre) and Jack Wilson address the meeting.

Following the presentation there was the opportunity for questions and discussions.