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Canon urges respect for churchyard

20 July 2012

THOMAS GRAY imagined them as places of calm, where, but for the occasional moping owl, the air "a solemn stillness holds". But for those churches with plenty of green space in close proximity to nightlife, such stillness is often in very short supply.

Faced with a churchyard full of ball games, litter, and, on occasion, syringes and other detritus, Blackburn Cathedral has decided to erect signs to educate people about "the appropriate way to behave in a cathedral precinct".

Canon Andrew Hindley said that matters had reached such a pitch "that we needed to deal with them in a way that was very clear, and which put a marker down. This is a burial ground, with generations of Blackburn people buried here.

A particular problem was "with young people from the local college".

More than a dozen signs have been put up, explaining that the area is a "sacred ancient burial ground" that visitors must "treat with respect", and prohibiting litter, ball games, shouting and swearing, alcohol, drugs, and bicycles.

The cathedral is close to nightclubs and pubs, and Canon Hindley says that he is aware that "people are using the grounds for sex late at night, having had a drink." There have been problems with prostitution in recent years, but this has been "taken care of" by installing CCTV cameras.

A £5-million redevelopment project that is under way will bring all clergy and lay staff to live in a cathedral close; and, Canon Hindley said, it was "important, therefore, that the space is safe for these families".

A quarter of the population of Blackburn with Darwen - in the lowest ten per cent among the most deprived councils in England - drinks at "hazardous or harmful levels", according to NHS statistics. Drug use is also higher there than the regional average.

The cathedral was dedicated to supporting those affected by addiction, Canon Hindley said. It supported the THOMAS Project, a local charity founded by a Roman Catholic priest, offering drug and alcohol rehabilitation. The Cathedral is also working with Blackburn Youth Zone to recruit a youth worker who will work in its grounds. Youth Zone has invested £6 million in a three-storey building 150 yards from the cathedral, to provide activities and practical support for young people, especially those who are disadvantaged and vulnerable.


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