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Astronomical visitor figures for Earth artwork, Gaia, at Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral is celebrating its final visitor figures following the success of Gaia this summer. From 10 July until 10 September, the giant Earth installation hung in the Nave of Durham Cathedral, providing not only a fantastic photo opportunity, but the chance for visitors to reflect upon the health of the earth and effects of climate change.

Over the 9 weeks, 140,000 people visited the cathedral to see Luke Jerram's Gaia, with over 1,400 of those people booking one of the unique events – from yoga to silent discos. Visitor figures in August alone, saw an increase of 72% over the same time period in 2022.

With visitors from the North East, the UK and around the globe coming to the cathedral, some described the artwork as ‘striking’ and ‘impressive’, while others said it was ‘surreal’ and ‘refreshing’.

Andrew Usher, Chief Officer: Visitor Experience and Enterprise at Durham Cathedral says,

‘It has been our pleasure to host Luke Jerram’s Earth artwork this summer. We have loved seeing the reactions of our visitors as they entered the cathedral and caught their first glimpse of Gaia. Over the past 9 weeks, it has been the focal point for photos, a feature in some once-in-a-lifetime events and a topic of debate. Whatever people's motivations for visiting Gaia, we hope the installation and the cathedral setting achieved the goal for our visitors to pause and reflect on our home planet and the current climate crisis we face.'

The impressive installation, at a size 1.8 million times smaller than Earth, provided a backdrop for planet-conscious events for a range of visitors. From Dinner under Earth in collaboration with REfUSE Cafe, made with intercepted food before going to waste, to lectures by the Durham Cathedral Institute, highlighting current environmental issues.

The income from these special events and visitor donations to the cathedral over the summer will support the cathedral’s conservation and enable the cathedral to continue to remain free to enter. Durham Cathedral currently receives no statutory funding and relies on the support of those who visit for prayer, worship, events or heritage to continue its mission and ministry.

Canon Chancellor, The Revd Canon Charlie Allen, says

'Gaia has been a striking and poignant focal point within the cathedral, encouraging visitors and the local community to gaze in awe at the planet we call home – and to lament the ways in which we have failed to care for it. We hope that Gaia will have inspired us all to take seriously the challenge of climate crisis and to reflect on how we can live differently so that future generations may enjoy the abundance we so easily take for granted.'

The touring artwork, measuring 7 metres in diameter, was created from 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the earth’s surface and is accompanied with a surround sound composition, created by BAFTA award winner Dan Jones. The aim of the installation is to create the overview effect, creating a sense of awe of the home planet.

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