As part of its scheme to research new audiences for a major new outreach and inclusion project, Wells Cathedral ran a four-week internship project through the IKEEP (Intrapreneurial Knowledge Exchange Enterprise Pathway) with University of Exeter interns.
Wells Cathedral is home to a thriving spiritual, musical and historical community stretching back nearly 850 years. The Cathedral has an international reputation and is the recipient of several tourism awards, having recently achieved a Silver Eco Church Award.
Described as the ‘most poetic’ of the English cathedrals, Wells was the first to be built in the Gothic style. The iconic West Front with its 300 medieval carvings and the 14thcentury Scissor Arches are highlights of the Cathedrals architecture.
The interns’ main priority was to identify areas across Somerset where cases of rural isolation, digital poverty, affordable housing, low skilled employment and unemployment are highest. In doing so, they identified groups operating within these areas, including community groups, schools, outreach programmes. From this, they designed a consultation questionnaire to ascertain the core needs of the identified groups around education and employment, alongside areas of operation that the Cathedral could potentially support through its music, education and volunteer programmes.
In carrying out consultation with the identified groups, the students produced a report that identifed groups that would like to engage further with the Cathedral and also recommendations for the type of engagement that they would find most beneficial.
According to Jonathan Sawyer, Development Director at Wells Cathedral, the limited time available to produce the project outcomes meant that the onus was placed on the interns to work collaboratively to devise, agree and deliver a project plan to meet the agreed deadline. Jonathan tells us that, “each of the interns used their initiative to creatively circumnavigate challenges that arose, particularly around obtaining responses to consultation in a very short time frame.”
Telling us about her experience, Anna Craig said that one of the most rewarding experiences of the internship was interacting with charities and finding out about the amazing work they accomplished: “by getting to know such a diverse set of organisations I feel I can now adapt my communication style to fit any group,” Anna told us.
However, Anna admits that the internship posed challenges: “despite formulating our survey with the intention of using phone surveys, many organisations did not have the time to chat with us. However, we successfully adapted our strategy, making a new online survey which organisations could complete in their own time.”
Discussing the skills that they have gained, Ani said: “I have definitely gained valuable skills [from the internship]. Firstly, I learnt to work within a large organisation. I learnt to work and communicate within a team, while taking initiative and working independently. I had a chance to take part in brainstorming sessions and plan the project as a team. I also advanced my research and analytical skills. I learnt to prioritise tasks and make decisions.”
Both Anna and Ani emphasised that the internship experience improved their understanding of the heritage sector. For Anna, the internship gave her a whole new perspective — she told us that: “previously, I viewed [the sector] as a purely cultural and historical field. I now understand the integral role of heritage within local communities in creating a sense of unity within localities. Wells Cathedral has fuelled my passion to work within the heritage sector, and I look forward to seeing the results our research project brings.”
According to Ani, after this internship, they realised how much work there is in the heritage sector: “thanks to the format of the project, I actually had a chance to communicate with the local communities and I got an impressive insight into what their reality is. I also got an insight into the organism of the heritage sector, and I realised that engaging the local communities is the most important aspect of it.”
On reflection of the Wells Cathedral outreach and inclusion project and the internship experience, Jonathan Sawyer told us that, “throughout the work, the interns all showed great maturity and professionalism which resulted in a piece of work that will directly influence and contribute to a multi-million-pound project, and for which they should be very proud.”
To find out more about Wells Cathedral, see: https://www.wellscathedral.org.uk and for more information about internship opportunities at the University of Exeter, see: https://www.exeter.ac.uk/careers/internships/.