Its acquisition by the Auckland Castle Trust, now The Auckland Project, marks another inflection point in its history. Its new role is to bring stuff to people – not to take it from them. The aim is to give an experience which will attract many more visitors – and that those visitors will oxygenate the surrounding region, bringing in their wake the wherewithal to change Bishop Auckland ‘economically, morally, socially, and spiritually’.
Bold words are often empty words, and we have had to make decisions as to what is realistic. We believe people are changed when confronted with something bigger than themselves.
For me, the biggest thing of all is God, and I want Auckland Castle to be a place where God may be found ‘in the beauty of holiness’. I also understand that we live in an age when there is a widespread grumpiness at the very thought of the existence of God. The experience at Auckland Castle extends the idea of seeking things bigger than ourselves to other avenues of inspiration. Art, music, gardens, nature, food, silences, walks and the patina of heritage will all be found here. These things we call ‘the holiness of beauty’ sitting in harmony with the beauty of holiness – and in tension with it.
This is the vision – all are welcome to add to it, to draw from it – to come, or take it in at a distance. We want it to be a place appreciated by all, and on their own terms.
Jonathan Ruffer, Founder of The Auckland Project