In the coming weeks, artist Lucy Sparrow is making mini versions of London’s iconic buildings out of felt. As part of our newMinistructures series, in which we interview Londoners with a connection to the big buildings of the capital, we chat to Reverend Philippa Boardman MBE, 50, Canon Treasurer and introduce her to our mini St Paul’s Cathedral.
What does Canon Treasurer do?
‘I care for the treasures of the building and all of its different artefacts – embroidered vestments, silver for Holy Communion, pictures and paintings. I also hold services, starting with 7.30am prayer. The Cathedral’s so quiet at that time – there’s a beautiful sense of peace.’
What kinds of people come here?
‘All sorts – we welcome 5,000 people every day, from every part of the world. I’m constantly amazed – North America, South America, Africa, India, Pakistan. People engage with the place on different levels – there’s its spiritual heart, but you can also come here for its architecture, its art, its history.’
How did you get into this line of work?
‘I had one of those Damascus Road experiences as a teenager and came to faith. This was back in the 1980s when women didn’t have great responsibility in the church. But by the time I’d left university, those doors had begun to open. In 1994 I was in the first group of women to be ordained in London, and now we’ve got 5,000 female priests in the Church of England.’
What do you do like most about London?
‘The wonderful thing about living so centrally – I live right by the Cathedral – is being able to walk by the Thames to the National Theatre or the Tate Modern, and just explore. Oh, and I love football season – I’m an Arsenal fan.’
‘My colleagues in the works department support Tottenham, so I’ll need to convert them.’
Why is St Paul’s so popular?
‘People come here for a particular experience – when the choirboys are here it’s really special. We also have a fantastic education department – we have 28,000 kids here each year. They love dressing up as St Paul. But there really is something about the Cathedral – the history of it is so vivid and full. I mean, you hear about the Great Fire of London from childhood, about St Paul’s being rebuilt and the way it’s been cared for since the Second World War. It’s a symbol of hope.’
Tell us something about you we wouldn’t guess.
‘I’ve watched “The Sound of Music” about 25 times. A while ago I went to one of those Sound of Music sing-alongs where you get dressed up, in one of the cinemas off Leicester Square. It was great fun. Some members of our congregation bought some curtain material and got us all kitted out.’ Interview: Flo Wales Bonner