A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Fiona Bruce isn’t helping any more

Neil Pickford studies some spreadsheets
I’m afraid the column is going to be a bit boring this week although insomniacs may be very grateful to me by the end of it. I shall be addressing figures.
Actually I shall be addressing statistics – and not vital ones at that – so the previous, tantalising little sentence is about as interesting as it’s likely to get. Sorry.
Right, having lowered expectations sufficiently, let us begin:
It’s fair to say for most of us that, regardless of what statisticians or analysts may claim, it is virtually impossible to compare ‘like for like’. Perhaps a giant company such as Tesco can influence so much of its environment that it can genuinely identify how changes in, say, levels of profitability can be traced back to individual management decisions, but we lesser mortals cannot.
Everything we do is affected by events around us over which we have no control. Sometimes they are immediate issues such as whether or not it is raining (which is, apparently, completely unpredictable if you follow Met Office weather forecasts). At other times we may also see changes due to more slow-moving trends such as the shift away from public transport to car, or the ageing profile of the population.
Certainly it is difficult to put my hand on my heart and swear on the Bible that some statistics I have been compiling over the last five years are, of themselves, an accurate reflection of changing trends but as they’re pretty much all we virgers have to go on then I will start this week’s in-depth analysis by concluding that the ‘Antiques Roadshow Effect’ is wearing off at Beverley Minster.
It is almost two years ago to the day that large BBC vans rolled up in Minster Yard North to begin a week of frantic activity for the virgers – and many others. Then, in September 2010, the results of these efforts saw the light of day – for the first time ever the consecutively-broadcast programmes of Songs of Praise and Antiques Roadshow had been recorded at the same venue and there was a certain amount of overlap as presenters Aled Jones and Fiona Bruce made crossover appearances in each other’s shows – all on prime time Sunday BBC1.
It was a great advertisement for Beverley Minster and we certainly benefitted from it. Visitor numbers were up and many of these newcomers quoted the BBC programmes as being the reasons for their visit – informing us that we were “an undiscovered gem” and suchlike high praise. Our roof tour numbers were up and everyone was happy.
This year, however, the numbers are down by nearly one quarter – at least as far as the tours are concerned.  In January we were down 21%;  February down 42%; March up 25%; and, so far in April, just about holding level. We’ve tried coming up with explanations: the weather, the different date of Easter this year and so on, but there’s no escaping the overall trend – it’s down. John and I are still doing the work (91 tours compared to 93 at the same time last year) but with smaller numbers each time.
It’s depressing really – everyone who comes up is (almost without exception) really delighted with the tour and promises to tell all their friends, but so far their friends haven’t shown up.  Feedback from visitor reports also shows that the Antiques Roadshow has virtually dropped off the radar in the ‘reasons for visit’ box, so we need another blockbuster, quickly.
I shall write to Doctor Who and invite them away from Cardiff for a few days of filming – after all, at the moment we could easily be the setting for an abandoned planet.
Anyway, time to wake up now. When I say ‘Hello’ you will feel refreshed and mysteriously eager to climb 113 steps into the roof of Beverley Minster. Let no one dissuade you.

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