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Cathedral faces criticism for helter skelter installation - but what do you think?

PUBLISHED: 11:18 09 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:10 09 August 2019

The Helter Skelter installed in Norwich Cathedral as part of their 'Seeing It Differently' project
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2019

The Helter Skelter installed in Norwich Cathedral as part of their 'Seeing It Differently' project Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2019

Norwich Cathedral has been accused of "professional incompetence" after it installed a 50ft helter skelter in its nave.

The Helter Skelter installed in Norwich Cathedral as part of their 'Seeing It Differently' project
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Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2019The Helter Skelter installed in Norwich Cathedral as part of their 'Seeing It Differently' project . Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2019

The brightly-coloured slide was erected as part of the Seeing It Differently project, which aims to encourage people to experience the cathedral in new ways.

Rev Canon Andy Bryant, who is behind the idea, said the ride allows visitors to get closer to the building's collection of medieval roof bosses and carvings.

But the cathedral has faced criticism from some religious figures and those on social media.

The Right Reverend Dr Gavin Ashenden, former chaplain to the Queen, said: "My real objection is that it is professional incompetence.

"People who are running the cathedral should understand how people are converted [to Christianity]. There is no evidence that people are converted by treating cathedrals as a cultural artefact.

"You want people who will come to visit because they are interested in Christianity."

He said while it was "great" for the church to provide access to religion, it should be done in a "competent" way.

"The idea of luring people into the cathedral to have fun is stupid," Rev Ashenden said. "That is why tourist trails and concerts inside cathedrals don't produce Christians.

The Helter Skelter installed in Norwich Cathedral as part of their 'Seeing It Differently' project
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2019The Helter Skelter installed in Norwich Cathedral as part of their 'Seeing It Differently' project Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2019

"It is the McDonaldisation of the church."

His views were echoed by a number of social media users, with some saying the ride belongs in a playground, rather than a place of worship.

John Vincent Cotter said on Twitter: "Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! Anglicans need to condemn this, or we'll be having 'God theme parks' springing up everywhere - or is it simply a revenue stream issue?!"

Janet Symington said: "Absolutely appalling. Belongs in a playground not a place of worship. Do you hold services and celebrate Holy Communion with that in the background?"

The Helter Skelter installed in Norwich Cathedral as part of their 'Seeing It Differently' project. Photo: Sonya DuncanThe Helter Skelter installed in Norwich Cathedral as part of their 'Seeing It Differently' project. Photo: Sonya Duncan

The helter-skelter attracted dozens of people into the cathedral on its opening day on Thursday. Visitors can slide down the ride for just £2 per person.

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Canon Andy Bryant said: "We've got more than 250 bosses telling the complete story of the Bible but the trouble is they're so high up.

"So we came up with this very playful idea and although we get that some people may think, 'what's a helter skelter doing in Norwich cathedral?'

The Helter Skelter installed in Norwich Cathedral as part of their 'Seeing It Differently' project
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2019The Helter Skelter installed in Norwich Cathedral as part of their 'Seeing It Differently' project Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2019

"Actually when you get up there you're going to be able to get closer to the roof bosses than you've ever been able to and enjoy what I would argue is one of the great gems of the city."

Other people on Twitter were more positive of the idea.

Social media user Twiggy Bigwood said: "It's very beautiful and being so close to the stained glass and roof bosses is brilliant!"

- Norwich Cathedral has been contacted for comment

More: You can now ride a 50ft helter skelter in Norwich Cathedral

We say

While many have welcomed the landmark within a landmark, others have been critical of whether this is the right place for a fairground attraction to sit.

One prominent member of the church has even gone so far as to accuse the clergy of being unprofessional and "poisoning the medicine" a church offers by installing a fairground ride. What nonsense.

The criticism is a shame as this is surely something that will bring new sets of eyes onto one of the crown jewels of the county.

And if that happens then perhaps those people will be more inclined to find out more about Christianity and the word of God. This could be a fantastic way to promote the Church of England and help to reverse falling attendance numbers up and down the country.

The cathedral is without a doubt the most instantly recognisable building in the city, but while everyone will be familiar with how it looks from the outside, some of its most glorious features lie inside the doors.

If by putting a helter skelter in, more families are inclined to pay it a visit, that is definitely worth supporting.

The reaction on social media seems to suggest that it is already attracting new visitors.

We applaud Norwich Cathedral for their forward thinking and are proud to find this is another Norfolk institution not only steeped in the past, but prepared to innovate in order to secure its future.

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