Gemma Jones, head of marketing and visitor experience at St Albans Cathedral, on being a part of Hertfordshire history
How long have you worked at St Albans Cathedral?
I joined the Cathedral just as the global pandemic started to hit back in February 2020. What a time to start a new job!
Is it an inspiring place to work?
As someone who has lived in the beautiful city of St Albans for ten years, the Cathedral is absolutely at the heart of the city. It’s such an inspiring place to work, no two days are the same. The Cathedral boasts over 1,700 years of history, so I’m proud to play my part in its future.
What does your role as head of marketing and visitor experience entail?
I have a great role here at the Cathedral. One of our missions is to offer a warm welcome to all, so we make sure that people can see what we do on our website, across our social media and emails. Then if people do visit us in person, we want to make sure they enjoy their visit and learn everything that they want, during their time with us.
What were you able to do during the various lockdowns?
The lockdowns were really hard for us at the Cathedral as a team and financially, but with pure determination to take the church online, we launched our first live stream service on Mothering Sunday 2020 and over 1,000 people tuned in live to watch to our amazement! From there, we went from strength to strength adapting everything we did, to bring the Cathedral to our current audience and our new followers from around the world. We also launched a new 3D tour, so you can see parts of the building that are not open to visitors.
The Light Show looks wonderful. What can we expect to see?
This year’s event will be an absolute stunner. Visitors will take a journey from sunrise to sunset, with world-themed light projections throughout the building. Look out for the dolphin swimming across the Nave!
Are you always looking at how you can bring the younger generation into the Cathedral?
Yes, absolutely. We have a Youth Chaplain that’s dedicated to nurturing the younger generations from the worship side of things. From a general visitor perspective, we have a fab dressing up area, kids’ trails and during school holidays we put on lots of events aimed at families.
What is your favourite thing about St Albans?
As a girl who grew up in rural Warwickshire, I love the balance of living in a city and its convenience, but with great green open spaces on the doorstep.
Have there been any outdoor spots that have been a godsend during the lockdowns?
During this year’s home-schooling lockdown, Verulamium Park was our go to for fresh air and to burn off some energy. Just mentioning home schooling gives me nightmares!
Where are your favourite local places, which could be shops, restaurants etc etc?
I absolutely love the Waffle House as a treat, and as a fan of Italian food, Per Tutti. As a cyclist though, I’m in my happy place cycling around the Dunstable Downs.
Do you have a secret or any interesting stories about St Albans Cathedral you are willing to reveal?
In August 1870, the Clerk of the Works heard an enormous cracking sound during a service. They discovered that the tower, which dates back to the 11th century, was at risk of collapsing. Extensive repair works were carried out and, thankfully, it still stands today. Now we run tower tours, so people can climb the 211 steps and on a clear day see The Shard.
The St Albans Cathedral Light Show opens on 26 October. Find out more at stalbanscathedral.org