Coventry Cathedral: “Risk-Taking, Art & Creativity”

We are delighted to announce that the new Coventry Cathedral website has been launched. It’s a totally new site, conceived and designed by Real Branding and built by technology specialists Suru Partners of Coventry, existing suppliers who invited us to work with them on the project. Some development and content work remains to be done, but it’s such a huge practical advance on what went before, it was decided to launch now.

From a creative standpoint, Coventry is the most exciting cathedral imaginable to work on. Yet much of the essence of its story and purpose was hidden. That it was bombed in WWII and the new cathedral built alongside the remains of the old, was fairly well known, as was its role in promoting reconciliation. Hidden, though, was the relevance of so many physical features and activities of the cathedral, to the difficult journey of reconciliation and how to begin it.

Greeted by a large, nude self-portrait

For example, central to deciding which artistic events should take place at cathedral, are two of its seven core values: Risk-Taking and Arts & Creativity. The cathedral wants to “confidently step out of the familiar in the service of God”. As the Dean explained to us “Good art forces you to look at something from another’s perspective – that’s how the process of reconciliation begins.” It also explains why, on one visit to the cathedral, we were greeted on entering by a large, androgynous nude self-portrait. It turns out to have been the winner of a self-portrait competition and exhibition being held at the time. But if you don’t know why the exhibition is there, it’s hard to get the point.

Similarly, the new cathedral is designed to physically symbolise the often difficult journey from birth, through life, to death and the glory of heaven. Thus, on entry, it all looks a bit gloomy, bar the light from a large window through which the morning light shines on a large stone, brought from Bethlehem. A basin has been carved into the stone, making it a font for all baptisms held here. Looking ahead, one can see the altar with its cross made from nails found in the ashes in 1941, and, beyond it, the enormous Sutherland tapestry of Christ in Glory. It is bathed in light but still, no windows are visible. It is only when you complete the journey to the tapestry and turn around, that you can see nothing but windows, all south-facing and thus, throughout much of the day, blazing with light.

It’s quite an experience. Of course if, like me, you didn’t know any of this, you walk in, think ‘Bit gloomy’ and walk out again. This is arguably the most extreme example, but there ae many to be found at Coventry.

Show not tell

To get across Coventry’s purpose in an engaging way likely to encourage people to visit in purpose, we used a combination of easy navigation (designed with multiple user profiles in mind) and dynamic page building, bringing in related content. That content includes, for examples, a growing bank of ‘Transformation Stories’, each being a personal story of changing perspectives created by the cathedral. It’s a classic ‘Show not tell’ approach.

Looking ahead

The new website is already popular with the in-house team that uses it as part of their programme of services and events (which is why it launched a tad early). It is going down well with the public, too, but there is work to do if it is to realise its aims in full and transform the effectiveness of the website in turning website visitors, into visitors to this extraordinary, risk-taking cathedral.

Coventry Cathedral:

Transformation stories:

Have a project in mind?