Open House Weekend September 2016

  • The Open House Weekend in September was the most popularly attended, with the attendance of 240 people surpassing the predicted 80 visitors.
  • Of the 240 visitors, 86 took the time to complete a feedback form:
  • The form consisted of 8 questions, to which each respondent had to complete a rating, or write a short descriptive response. Visitors were also asked to offer details about their gender, age, occupation, address, ethnicity, and religious affiliation.
  • 60% of respondents stated that they felt very engaged with the heritage of the building as a result of the event. The remaining majority responded positively.
  • The majority of respondents stated that they were ‘not at all’ engaged with the heritage of the building prior to the event, whereas around a quarter had had some engagement with the building before, perhaps due to their specialised architectural interest, or in living locally to the building.
  • 68% stated that they felt ‘very much’ as though they had learned a useful skill, or gained a useful experience through their participation in the event.
  • 74% of visitors gave their experience a very positive rating.

Over half of the respondents stated that the experience had made them more aware of citywide heritage sites that were open to visitors:

  1. When asked to comment on what had motivated respondents to visit the building, there was a range of answers:
  2. An interest in architecture was a predominant draw, as was living in the local area. People expressed an emotional attachment, or curiosity towards the building. Comments such as ‘I commute past it regularly,’ or ‘I’ve seen it for many years but never been inside it’ were commonplace.
  3. Others had been more intentional in attending the event, having seen the event advertised on the London Open House Weekend, or the St. Paul’s Church website.
  4. Visitors were forthcoming in detailing some of the particular experiences or details that they especially enjoyed about their visit to St Paul’s:
  5. Many people, locals in particular, expressed surprise and the unexpected appearance of the inside of the church in terms of its shape and atmosphere, having walked past it many times before. One person particularly appreciated ‘the opportunity to engage with a place that I would otherwise have passed by,’ another wrote that they enjoyed ‘seeing something new right on [their] doorstep.’
  6. Mentioned several times was an appreciation to be able to move around freely, to admire the interior of the building, the ‘juxtaposition of the old and the new,’ the light, and event intricate details such as the iron framework for the lights. Being unencumbered, and free to wander gave rise to this sense of belonging in the space, and being able to engage with the heritage of the building in one’s own time and way.
  7. People were struck by ‘the passion of the people telling us the story,’ those people being Mother Bernadette herself, along with the team of heritage volunteers. Respondents noted the warm welcome, and the sense of inclusivity and interaction. One parent commented that her children enjoyed ringing the church bell before they left.
  8. There was a sense, also, in which the history of the building very much came to life to many visitors. Learning about the heritage of radical priests and the church’s history, was a highlight for one visitor, and people generally found the presentation of information, both written and verbal, very effective.  
  9. Of the 70 people who gave details regarding their age, gender, occupation, ethnicity and religious affiliation:
  10.  50 identified as being within the 25 to 59 age bracket.
  11. The second largest age group represented was the 16 to 25 age range, and then the 60+ age bracket.
  12. The majority of attendees self-identified as ‘white,’ and 5 identified as ‘Asian’.
  13. Only a small proportion of visitors professed a religious faith. 20 of those respondents professed a religious faith; 18 ‘Christian’, 1 ‘Jewish’ and 1 ‘Muslim’.
  14. While this only offers a small snapshot of the overall demographic, it nonetheless affords an important insight, and indeed, has pointed to ways in which St Paul’s might become increasingly inclusive and accessible to all.
  15. The volunteers also offered their own feedback;
  16. a general theme of which was an enhanced confidence to engage with heritage, both of St Paul’s Church, but also more generally.
  17. The majority of volunteers, serving as stewards, in hospitality and leading tours, stated that their understanding of the building after their volunteering experience had improved, where beforehand they had had little understanding or experience of the building.
  18.  Most stated that they had learned a useful skill, and gained an experience of heritage, particularly relating to skills in communication, interpersonal abilities, hospitality, design, and facilitation.

The majority of volunteers were in the 25-59 age bracket, with some in the 16-25 age group. Only a very small proportion professed a religious faith, demonstrating once again, that the experience was inclusive and open