Our wonderful volunteers come from all over the county, and often feel deeply connected to the cathedral, something that ultimately leads to them joining as part of the volunteer team. Here, volunteer guide, Jane Young, explains her connection with the cathedral, a connection that stems from her childhood and something she gained a sense of place and identity from in her formative years.
“Although now living 25 miles away, Durham is my home“
The visible and audible presence of the Cathedral was always part of my childhood. I saw the Cathedral from my bedroom window; I listened to the reassuring chimes when I woke at night; I had glimpses of the Cathedral as I walked to school; I grew up with (improbable) stories of a secret passage from our house to the Cathedral; my father made a silver replica of St Cuthbert’s Cross, probably his most challenging and most cherished piece of craft work; my piano exams and some school exams were taken in buildings on Palace Green and I won the Harrison Memorial Local History Prize at school for a project on Durham Cathedral.
Most important of all was when, at the age of 8, I was allowed to walk from home, all the way through the town to my piano teacher’s home in The College. I distinctly remember feeling grown up, but a little scared as well until I saw the Cathedral from the top of Owengate. It became my sanctuary. The Cathedral wrapped its arms around me and I felt safe as I walked through into the Cloisters and out into the wonderful area of the old monastery.
I became enthralled with the building and its atmosphere and one event in particular opened my eyes to the real beauty of the architecture: a Son et Lumiere in the early sixties. I remember noticing a small Cuthbert’s Cross in the rood screen as it was lit up with a purple light. I was determined one day to contribute in some way to this marvellous embracing building. The answer came years later when I met my former headmistress in her role as a voluntary steward: that was the job that I would love to do!
In 2007, I became a volunteer steward and immediately all my childhood affections and experiences came together and I was part of the Cathedral community. No longer was I the anonymous little girl who felt secure in the warm embrace of the building. I was an adult who could share with other visitors that wonderful presence that emanates from the interior. It was even better than that. I felt valued. I have volunteered in many ways throughout my life but never have I felt such a valued part of a wider whole. I trained as a guide in 2012, and life just got better. Meeting visitors from across the globe, answering their questions, learning from them and sharing their enthusiasm is so rewarding. The opportunity to become part of the wider community of wonderful staff, volunteers and visitors brings so many rewards and I am very thankful for this.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer at the cathedral, have a look at the information on our website page at https://www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/get-involved/volunteering