Dowson, Ruth, Religious Heritage and Events – the future?

Dowson, Ruth, Religious Heritage and Events – the future?

In the UK, where over 73% of adults visited a heritage site in 2012[1], and 78% attended or participated in arts activity,[2] the events industry as a whole generates over £39bn a year – more than agriculture. There are over 25,000 events businesses, employing over 530,000 people, and bringing 7m business visitors yearly to the UK. By 2020, the UK events industry will be worth £48.4bn, equivalent to 16 Olympic Games. This YouTube video tells the story of events in the UK:

So how are events connected with religious heritage? To give an example, for three months in the summer of 2013, the City of Durham became the focus of a new journey for the Lindisfarne Gospels, as the British Library returned them to their original home in North East England. However, this visit was initiated in an environment in which organised events dominate cultural, social, leisure, and sporting landscapes, underpinned by experiential marketing activities. The partnership of organisers – Durham University, Durham Cathedral, Durham County Council and the British Library, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, explicitly recognised that “the exhibition had to be much more than a book in a case.”[3]

In meeting the Exhibition’s objectives: “To engage people with the story of the Gospels; to celebrate the rich heritage of culture, learning and artistry; and to emulate the spirit of creativity”[4], these three months became a time of celebration, filled with a “rich programme of events”[5] that included a Schools Outreach programme and resulted in the sale of over 95,000 exhibition tickets, made available online through the Ticketmaster website, (more usually used for rock concerts, sporting events and festivals). The wide-ranging events programme included a flower festival, “Jewels of the North”,[6] and performance of a widely-acclaimed dramatic and musical interpretation, “The Young Person’s Guide to the Lindisfarne Gospels”[7].

However, such activity requires new skills – those of events management. I am part of the international team of over 40 events academics and practitioners at the UK Centre for Events Management, established at Leeds Metropolitan University in 1996. We offer pure events management education that is recognised for innovations in teaching, placing employability at the heart of its provision, alongside academic and industry research[8] through ICRETH, our research centre (

At the UK Centre for Events Management we have developed a range of tailored workshops and short courses that can be delivered anywhere, as well as specialist Leeds-based degree courses, such as the BA in Conference and Exhibitions Management. More recently, we introduced the first pure online MSc in Events Management with global publisher, Pearsons.

Our students’ and graduates’ achievements speak of our success: for three years running, the MPI[9] Young Achievers Award has been won by our students – in 2013, by Holly Glover, Olivia Pole-Evans and Faye Briggs. One of the three winners of The Eventice[10] 2013, James Boardman, graduated from UKCEM, and in 2014 The Eventice featured 5 representatives from Leeds, of whom our current fourth year undergraduates, Charlotte Jarman and Holly Glover, won two of the three positions offered in the final. Olivia Pole-Evans, another final-year undergraduate (also a finalist in The Eventice), won national recognition from a leading events industry’s professional organisation, MPI UK & Ireland, receiving its inaugural Vanessa Cotton scholarship in 2014.

Last year the UKCEM Event Awards 2013 took place at the University’s Rose Bowl, a flagship development and landmark for the city of Leeds. Through innovative and professionally managed events, the students raised nearly £20,000 for domestic and international charities. These student successes and the graduates in employment are due to the combination of academic and practitioner insights, staff engagement in industry and the real-world work that students undertake.

Over the next year, the UK Centre for Events Management will be working collaboratively with the Future for Religious Heritage, its member organisations, and the University of Lapland to bid for funding for a project that will support heritage, religious and cultural institutions to thrive in Europe by enhancing capacity for their members and associated organisations, both paid and voluntary, to stage and host events, providing greater financial sustainability and enhanced civic participation and engagement in communities in particular with cultural objects and in spaces of cultural significance.

If you would like to join us, please get in touch with me, Rev Ruth Dowson.

Rev Ruth Dowson, Senior Lecturer, UK Centre for Events Management, and Member of Future for Religious Heritage. Email:

[1] DCMS p23

[2] DCMS p33

[9] [Internet]> [Accessed 27.03.2014]

[10] [Internet[ <> [Accessed 27.03.2014]

Youtube video about the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition in Durham

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