Chester Cathedral remains the centre of the city's Christmas celebrations

PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 December 2018

CHE Dec18 Chester

CHE Dec18 Chester

Archant

We meet some of the people creating the magic that Chester offers to both visitors and residents

Jo Sykes by the stained glass window depicting The Monk, Ranolf Higden after whom (it is said) the Mystery Plays originated at Chester CathedralJo Sykes by the stained glass window depicting The Monk, Ranolf Higden after whom (it is said) the Mystery Plays originated at Chester Cathedral

Chester Cathedral has a new Dean, The Very Reverend Dr Tim Stratford, although he’s not new to the city. He was brought up in Liverpool and recalls visiting Chester when he was a boy.

‘It was only a ferry ride away and that was always exciting,’ he says as he prepares for the busiest season in the Church’s calendar, Christmas.

‘But it is the first time I have lived here and I am looking forward to getting about both in the city and the county.’

‘The Dean’s role reaches right across the county and represents not only Chester but the whole diocese that includes parts of Merseyside, Manchester and Derbyshire.’

Christmas tree at The CrossChristmas tree at The Cross

‘The Church of England is split into 42 dioceses and each has a Bishop as its leader. The cathedral is seen as the mother of the church and the Dean is the representative for mother church.

‘Most of my time is spent ensuring the cathedral serves the city and its people well. We are one of the oldest in the country and so we are responsible too for a lot of history, looking after the building and its artefacts and then making sure people can see them and appreciate them, that is part of my role.’

The challenges for Dr Tim are like those of anyone with a large old building to maintain and that is raising enough money to look after it. He says the Church of England is deemed rich but it’s wealth is invested in property.

Another aim is to make the cathedral welcoming and hospitable to people.

Young artist George Davies (14) *** Local Caption *** Chester Town FeatureYoung artist George Davies (14) *** Local Caption *** Chester Town Feature

‘It is easy to slip into thinking that we should be here for the building when in fact the building is here for the people,’ he says.

‘Christmas time is when we have a lot of opportunity to show what the cathedral has to offer but that also means we put ourselves under a lot of stress and the consequences of that can be that we aren’t as welcoming. It’s about keeping that balance right so we don’t lose a sense of proportion and not to take ourselves too seriously.’

There are exciting times ahead for the cathedral which he says will be a place of exhibitions, installations, performance arts, music and worship and for social gathering.

‘We will be setting a theme for the year,’ he explains.

Calum Adams at the Roman Gardens *** Local Caption *** Chester Town FeatureCalum Adams at the Roman Gardens *** Local Caption *** Chester Town Feature

‘The next theme is water and we will be putting on a lot of events and installations within the building. Water is where Christian life begins, initially with baptism. There will be art, music, family events and an exclusive exhibition called The Deep. I can’t say anything about it but people will notice it.’

As one person enters the cathedral another says adieu.

Jo Sykes has been the Chair of Chester’s Mystery Plays at the cathedral since the 1990s. She has seen the event go from strength to strength. Her involvement stretches way back to 1962 when she was 16-years-old. ‘I lived in Tarvin, a village about six miles out of Chester, and there was not much there in those days. My teacher suggested to my parents that it might be good for me to get involved,’ she recalls.

‘My mother took me to audition for the part of Eve which I didn’t get. Instead I was made part of the crowd. It was a wonderful experience. Now when I meet people I say “This is an experience you will remember all your lives and you will make lifelong friends.” And it’s so true.

‘I joined the board in 1995 but was an actor right up until then. I felt I could act as well as do the job on the board. Sadly our Chair died in 2003 and I became the Chair and the rest, as they say, is history.

‘We have worked very, very hard to make sure the Mystery Plays are well-known in Chester. In the old days they were performed every five years but there was no continuity. Now we keep them in the public eye with fundraising events and we also do the Passion at Easter which has been enormously successful.’

Over the decades Jo has had some amazing experiences, including meeting the royals.

‘In my first year I had a royal encounter with Princess Margaret, that was in 1962, and we had Prince Edward here to see them in 2003,’ she says.

‘HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall didn’t come for the Mystery Plays in 2013 but in 2014 they visited Chester and asked to see a Mystery Play. We didn’t hesitate. We just said “of course” and did part of the production for them at the Cathedral which they loved.’

The reason for Jo’s departure is simple. ‘I’m not getting any younger,’ she explains.

‘I feel that it is time for somebody else to take over the reins. I still have loads of energy left but that may not be the case in five years. However, I am not leaving the country. I do a lot of other things and I will be there for the person who has taken over from me to support them.

‘It is a passion. I’m not sure when it became a passion but I loved doing it ever since I was a youngster, when suddenly it became more important to me.’

Christmas is a wonderful time to experience all that Chester has to offer and that includes the Christmas markets which Kendra Kennedy helped set up in the city around five years ago.

Having run the Christmas markets in Manchester she admits that Chester, with its mixture of local craftspeople and local producers has charm in spades.

‘There are 70 stalls and nothing is over-represented so you can do some grand shopping here,’ says Kendra, who now runs the Shire’s cafe and gin and ale bar.

‘Of course it has grown, but with 70 stalls it is less crowded than in Manchester. You can take your time shopping and talking to the producers. It’s also wonderfully festive.

‘Chester really twinkles. You can sit underneath the Christmas tree and drink your mulled wine and on Thursdays there are the parades, so you get a lot of families coming in and enjoying the market. It’s a good mix.’

Chester’s Christmas markets will run until December 22nd.

More from Cheshire Life

Step out with pride around glorious Lyme Park on a search for the pond made famous by Colin Firth as Mr Darcy in his dripping white shirt!

Read more

It's no media myth, Cheshire's Golden Triangle really exists, so here's our guide to the very best of Wilmslow, Prestbury and Alderley Edge.

Read more
00:00

Individually cut and welded pieces of metal make up the textured feathers of this stunning piece whilst the beak is perfectly formed, ready to let out a quack at any time.

Read more
Friday, October 18, 2019

A visit t Stoclton Heath's latest dining destination.

Read more
Stockton Heath
Thursday, October 17, 2019

We went to review the newly opened Wolf At The Door during its brief incarnation as the Wilderness Bar and Kitchen. Although the name has changed, the dishes and decor remain the same at as the time of the review.

Read more
Manchester Restaurants
Thursday, October 17, 2019

A city walk that's best done at a gentle stroll, giving yourself time to appreciate the sights you may have been taking for granted.

Read more
Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Take your four-legged friend on a tour around Cheshire's most popular walking spots.

Read more
Dogs
Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Neighbourhood know-how, places and people.

Read more
Sandbach
Monday, October 14, 2019

We are pleased to offer two lucky readers the chance to experience one of London's most compelling neighbourhoods with a luxurious weekend stay at The Marylebone.

Read more
Monday, October 14, 2019

Fromer Cheadle Hulme School pupil sets hers sights on World Championship events

Read more
Monday, October 14, 2019

The Great Inns of Britain is offering one lucky couple the chance to indulge in a one-night bed and breakfast stay at The Shibden Mill Inn, Halifax, set in the grounds of Shibden Hall, the home of Anne Lister, upon which the protaganist of Sally Wainwright's Gentleman Jack BBC television series is based.

Read more

He courts controversy as the celebrity lawyer who secures acquittals for his famous clientele but at home in Knutsford life is far simpler for Nick Freeman.

Read more
Thursday, October 10, 2019

Meet the Cheshire business owners who've cottoned on to the canine craze and made a success from their passion for pooches

Read more
Dogs
Thursday, October 10, 2019

We've teamed up with the Fish for Thought to offer one lucky winner £500 to spend on great seafood from the UK's leading online fishmonger

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Subscribe or buy a mag today


Local Business Directory

Property Search

Comments have been disabled on this article.

Most Read

Latest from the Cheshire