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Beckham’s boots fail to score in cathedral exhibition

12 January 2011

by Ed Beavan

WORCESTER Cathedral made a loss of more than £50,000 on a summer sporting exhibition held in its nave for three weeks in August.

The “British Sporting Heroes” exhibition displayed memorabilia loaned from six national sports museums and three private collec­tions, and included items such as David Beckham’s football boots, a replica of the Ashes urn, and three Cheltenham Gold Cups.

But the exhibition, which was designed to raise funds and “to reach out, beyond the Cathedral’s familiar supporters”, attracted slow sales for tickets, which were priced at £7.50 for adults, and £5 for children. The exhibition had a budgeted spend of £66,000, and was expected to gener­ate £105,000. In the event, it cost £78,000, and made a loss of £51,000.

The Cathedral Chapter sub­sequently asked the Cathedral Council to carry out a review to identify the reasons for the failure, so that it could learn lessons for the future. The report identifies the “principal reason for the loss was that the number of visitors to the exhibition was approximately 2000 whilst the number that had been expected was 10,000”.

It also identified failures in the advertising campaign, and the fact that it was aimed at a new con­stituency, which “did not match the Cathedral’s normal visitors and would not have appealed to many of them”. There were “no obvious links between the subject matter and the Cathedral”.

One of the reasons for going ahead had been the “positive ex­peri-ence” of “Starstruck in the Cathed­ral”, an exhibition of costume in the nave a year earlier. This had raised £20,000.

The Dean of Worcester Cathedral, the Very Revd Peter Atkinson, said that the event had been “a first-class exhibition with an excellent organ­iser, which just didn’t take off”. He said that the review pointed to a lack of market research beforehand, and called for a more effective business plan for future events.

“Some people were very angry . . . so we were concerned to understand what had happened — hence the re­view. We want to be open with the community here.”

Despite the loss, Dean Atkinson reported an “exceptionally successful year” in every other area of cathedral finances. There were increases in visitors’ donations; and a poetry-reading marathon, “Rimes in Time”, generated more than £20,000.

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