In a contemporary take on a medieval tradition, Blackburn Cathedral will this week launch the first ever Cathedral brand gin.
Called Cathedra – the Dean of Blackburn hopes this new gin, specially crafted by a local distillery, will become one of the go-to brands in the current gin revival – and in the longer term create a new income stream for the cathedral’s mission and ministry. The gin is made by Brindle Distillery in Lancashire.
“This is not a novelty; this is a cathedral doing business,” said the Dean, the Very Revd Peter Howell Jones.
“Blackburn is not a tourism centre, it is not a rich part of the world, and we need to reach out to markets beyond our town and region to be sustainable long term.
“Gin is on trend; it is a developing market, and there is a long history of monastic communities brewing mead, wines and beers.”
“I wanted to create a brand that would work across the country; that could create a income stream from which all English Cathedrals can benefit,” he added.
In the shorter term, the Dean hopes Cathedra will be one of a number of fundraising ventures to raise the £1m match-funding needed to redevelop Blackburn’s crypt into a community and conferencing facility, and an exhibition and heritage space that tells the region’s rich history of Lancashire’s cotton towns and the faith that underpinned them.
Longer term, he hopes it will provide an income stream to guarantee sustainability and to ensure Blackburn Cathedral’s social cohesion projects and its education and music development programme, that currently reaches 6,500 children across 160 schools, will be there for future generations.
“It’s about engaging with people; that’s our core business,” he added.
Cathedra gin will first be unveiled to an audience of business leaders and civic dignitaries at the Dean’s Dinner in Blackburn Cathedral this Thursday (15 Nov) when it will be offered alongside Prosecco as an aperitif. It is also available online from this date. It will be available to buy in a number of selected cathedral shops together with selected independent wines shops.
Peter Howell Jones is no stranger to unusual and imaginative fundraising initiatives. While serving as Vice Dean at Chester Cathedral, he opened a falconry centre in the grounds and was instrumental in bringing last year’s Ark exhibition which featured Damian Hirst’s Golden Calf alongside works by Jacob Epstein and Elizabeth Frink, and featured over 90 different artists securing the cathedral the 2017 ‘Tourism Experience or Event of the Year’ in the local Cheshire Life Awards.
“It is imperative that cathedrals commercially engage with different groups of people. We should not be afraid to engage with all aspects of society.
“Opening the falconry centre wasn’t a quirky gimmick; it was a business opportunity to help sustain one of the great heritage buildings of our nation.
“Creating a gin here at Blackburn Cathedral to sell in the commercial world helps us develop our reach beyond Lancashire and reflects a well-established tradition of monastic and religious communities brewing, fermenting and distilling dating back to before the medieval period.
“And in doing so, we are helping to reflect something of the entrepreneurism and creativity, which is the spirit of England’s Cathedrals,” he added.