Exclusive interview with Southwark Cathedral’s resident cat – Doorkins – and author Lisa Gutwein

Southwark Cathedral’s resident mouse-catcher recently secured her first book deal. We caught up with author, Lisa Gutwein, and the book’s star – Doorkins. 

For those who might not know the story of how Doorkins came to be the resident cat of Southwark Cathedral, could you give us a summary?

Lisa: Doorkins was a stray cat who made Southwark Cathedral her home almost 10 years ago.  One morning she was just waiting by the door when the cathedral verger came to open up for the day.  After that she made the cathedral her home and has never left!

Doorkins: Southwark Cathedral is the perfect place for a cat, it has lots of impressive chairs to nap on and secret corners to explore. Borough Market is right next door and my friends there always have lots of tasty scraps to feed me! I have made so many friends who like to come and visit me from all over the world, and the Dean relies on me to keep things running smoothly.

How did the idea for the book come about?

Lisa: My husband, who is one of the cathedral Vergers, was late home one night because Doorkins wouldn’t come out for her supper and mouse-catching duties. He spent an hour following her around the cathedral before she decided to let him put her out for the night! I could just imagine the look on Doorkins’ mischievous little face as she trotted around the cathedral with a very flustered Verger in tow! I thought, it’s time more people got to know this little cat!

Doorkins: When you have me as your muse the rest is easy.

The book follows a week in the life of Doorkins and includes a visit from a very special guest – the Queen! What did Doorkins make of Her Majesty?

Lisa: I think that Doorkins likes to play the cool cat, acting like she’s not fussed with all of the pomp and ceremony, but secretly she loves the attention! Especially from HM the Queen!

Doorkins: The thing about cats is we see all humans the same, as long as there’s a rub behind the ear and a little treat now and again we are generally pleased.

What is Doorkins’ favourite thing to do in the cathedral?

Lisa: Definitely napping in all the best spots! The bishops thrown is usually a favourite.

Doorkins: There are many thrones, chairs, pews and benches in the cathedral and my favourite thing to do is to find one and curl up for a quiet nap.  I also like to play hide and seek with the Vergers when they’re trying to find me for supper!

Rowan Ambrose has illustrated the book – how did she go about this?

Lisa: Firstly she took lots of photographs, she then sketched the scene in pencil, went over them in black ink and coloured them with artists pencils. We tried to incorporate as much of the cathedral as possible through the illustrations so that Doorkins takes the reader on a tour of the magnificent building.

Doorkins: I am of course Rowans muse! I posed in all of my favourite places and the rest was easy!

Who will most enjoy reading the book?

Lisa: I think the book has so much to offer everyone. The beautiful illustrations are fun and playful and capture Doorkins mischievous nature which children will love, but they are also incredibly accurate to the architecture and ambiance of the Cathedral which I think adult readers will enjoy. Through the story there is a deeper message of welcome, hospitality and inclusivity that is at the heart of Southwark cathedral and its community.

Doorkins: Everyone, because everyone loves cats, don’t they?

How do you both feel about having your first book published?

Lisa: I’m very excited! But really Doorkins and the cathedral community did all of the hard work and are a part of this as much as me. Everyone has their own Doorkins story, or favourite photograph and it’s those that make up this book.

Doorkins: I’m happy that more people will finally realise who’s really in charge around here… I’ve heard that some people still think it’s the Dean!

Sadiq Khan is a fan of Doorkins and has even endorsed the book. Does Doorkins have any more famous friends?

Lisa: The people who come to Southwark Cathedral are who make it what it is. Whether it be HM the Queen, the Mayor of London, children from our local schools or visitors from the Borough Market. Famous or not they are all friends of Doorkins.

Doorkins: Fame is not a quality that a cat looks for in a human. All humans are my friends and I love them all the same, especially if they have a packet of Dreamies in their pocket!

For more information and to buy your own copy of Doorkins the Cathedral Cat, please click here.

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Doorkins with her new book.

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