In this week's #BlessedIsShe, we meet Beth Williamson, one of many people at the cathedral who has more than just one role.
In this centenary year of women's suffrage, we are celebrating the women who play important roles in the daily life of the Cathedral community.
Each Saturday of the year, we will be sharing a different story here and across our social media.
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and search for the #BlessedIsShe hashtag.
What’s your connection with Bristol Cathedral?
I have a number of connections with the cathedral – I am a member of the cathedral’s Fabric Committee, which means that I take part in discussions about the maintenance of the building. I lecture in medieval art and architecture at the University of Bristol so I think originally I was asked to join this committee because I am supposed to know about medieval buildings! In connection with that, I regularly bring groups of students to look study the cathedral as part of their studies in art history. Lately I’ve been running the exciting research project on Sound and Silence in the cathedral. I am also involved in the music and liturgy of the cathedral, by virtue of being a chorister parent – my daughter Maddy is a year 6 probationer.
How long have you been associated with the Cathedral?
Since I arrived in Bristol to take up my lectureship at the University of Bristol in 1998. As a singer myself, and someone with a particular love of Choral Evensong I came to check out the music straight away! I got to know the Lay Clerks here, and was occasionally (and still am, from time to time) drafted in to sing services when the full cathedral choir isn’t singing.
What first drew you to Bristol Cathedral?
It was music first – I couldn’t (and still can’t) believe the standard and quality of music that we have available to us here, day after day. My love for the building came second: I didn’t really work on English art and architecture before I arrived in Bristol, as my specialist area then was Italian art. But as I came to know the building, I was drawn into studying it, teaching about it, and publishing on it. It’s a real privilege to be able to inhabit these spaces, especially when the choir is singing.
What have been some of your personal highlights?
Some really extraordinary, beautiful, and moving services: Good Friday, and Advent Sunday last year, in particular. For myself, one of the greatest highlights was an event that formed part of our Sound and Silence project, and which took place during Bristol’s Doors Open Day last September: I brought together a group of five singers to sing throughout the day, in various parts of the building, to explore the ways that music sounds in different areas. The visitors to the building loved the extra dimension that the music brought to the building’s spaces. The singers even let me join in with them at one point, which was fantastic!
What would you like to see the Cathedral doing over the next few years?
Continuing to be a place of welcome for everyone in Bristol, and continuing to perform the most amazing music and liturgy. It would be good to see the numbers of people coming to the cathedral increasing – whether it be to worship, or to listen to music, or to look around the building.
What does the Cathedral mean for you?
It feels very much like a place of work, a place of worship, and a home rolled into one: I can be here one day with a group of students, studying and researching the architecture; I can be here the next day in a meeting of the Fabric Committee; I can be here another day attending Eucharist or Evensong; and I can be here at other times, chatting to other chorister parents in the cloister while I wait to collect my daughter after a service. I feel lucky to be a part of this community in so many different ways.