Just who is the Dean of St Edmundsbury, Joe Hawes, really? Well, he loves a gin and tonic for starters...

PUBLISHED: 18:50 20 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:14 21 December 2019

The Very Reverend Joe Hawes and his partner Chris

The Very Reverend Joe Hawes and his partner Chris


The Very Reverend Joe Hawes, Dean of St Edmundsbury since July 2018, was called to ordained ministry after his university studies. Serving the church in both affluent and acutely deprived parishes in London, he spent fifteen years as Vicar of Fulham working closely with colleagues and a large team of volunteers to deepen links with the community. He was also a trustee of the Fulham Palace Trust, former home of the Bishops of London. All this has prepared him for the role of senior priest with oversight of the spiritual and administrative life of Suffolk’s Cathedral. Here Joe talks to Gina Long.

The Very Reverend Joe Hawes being installed as Dean of St Edmundsbury last yearThe Very Reverend Joe Hawes being installed as Dean of St Edmundsbury last year

What is your connection to East Anglia?

To my shame, before I came to live here, just travelling through to get to the coast: Orford for crab and Aldeburgh for music, but now I've come to live and work here as Dean, I'm discovering so much more.

What is your East Anglian Heaven ie what do you love most about East Anglia?

The beauty of the county, gentle rolling hills, beautiful bleak coastlines, stunning churches, great Suffolk food and drink, excellent country pubs. Craft beers...

What is your East Anglian Hell ie what you hate most about living here?

The A14, doesn't everyone? Particularly lorries which overtake on hills when you're late for yet another meeting in Ipswich…

What's your favourite East Anglian restaurant?

Am I allowed to have a favourite? Well, weekday supper at the One Bull in Bury, 1921 for a special occasion, Pea Porridge for date night….

What's your favourite way to spend an East Anglian evening?

Walking by the sea at Orford then supper at the Butley Oysterage.

What's your favourite East Anglian landmark?

St Edmundsbury Cathedral of course! The finest contemporary gothic tower in the world. And that is a fact.

What's the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

The Suffolk Show.

What is your specialist Mastermind subject?

The operas of Benjamin Britten.

What is always in your fridge?


What's your simple philosophy of life?

However much you may disagree with/dislike/disapprove of someone; they too are a child of God, like you, loved like you.

What's your favourite film?

Baghdad Cafe.

What was your first job?

Running the kitchens in the Fighting Cocks, reputedly England's oldest pub at the bottom of the hill below St Albans Abbey.

What is your most treasured possession?

The ring which belonged to 
my partner Chris's Grandmother and which he gave me at our 
Civil partnership ceremony. It is old, worn, thin, scratched. It reminds me of a woman I never met but who lived through two World Wars, lost a husband, 
raised children and grandchildren (including Chris), worked 
hard, was resilient, would 
turn in her grave if a carton or plastic bottle was put on the breakfast table, and adored Chris, as I do.

Who do you admire most?

Senator Gordon Wilson: Irish peace campaigner whose 
daughter was killed in the Eniskillen Remembrance Day bombing in 1987. He said, in an interview with the BBC: 'I bear 
no ill will. I bear no grudge. Dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. She was a great wee lassie. She loved her profession. She was a pet. She's dead. She's in heaven and we shall meet again. I will pray for these men tonight and every night." Could I say that about people who had taken someone so beloved from me? I like to think so, but I'm not sure.

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What is your biggest indulgence?

It sounds so pretentious, but going to the opera! It's expensive but completely worth it!

What do you like about yourself most?

My sense of humour.

What's your worst character trait?

Once let down by someone, I find it hard to trust them again.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

France, Provence, a tiny hilltop village where close friends have a little house.

Best day of your life?

Might sound corny, but it has to be the day of my Civil Partnership to Chris.

What's your favourite breakfast?

Full English of course! Black pudding obligatory, sausages, definitely, all Suffolk produce please!

What's your favourite tipple?

Gin & Tonic.

What's your hidden talent?

I love scuba diving. I'm not frightened of jumping into even quite rough seas to go down 30 meters to explore an old wreck.

When were you most embarrassed?

Being outed on national television! It was the Robert Kilroy-Silk daytime TV show. I was a young student. My bishop was clearly on record saying he wouldn't ordain anyone gay. It was 1987, there were debates in the national press. I had naively agreed to go on the live show on the understanding that they didn't 'out' me. But they did.

What's your earliest memory?

My father kissing me goodnight. He smelt of cologne, cigars and whisky: intoxicating!

What song would you like played at your funeral?

'Before going to sleep', Richard Strauss, Four last Songs

Tell us something people don't know about you?

I can't dance! No, I really can't. Ask Chris, he will assure you it's true. So don't ask me. Ever.

What's the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

'You shouldn't set your sights so high, you'll just keep being disappointed'.

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else?

Well, it does come with the job…but equally I am so glad to have landed in Suffolk!

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

There is a part of you, of every human being, which is infinitely older than you are, given to you to nurture and grow. Call it your soul, your essential self, it doesn't matter, but it exists. It is the part of you which belongs to God and is lent to you while you are on this earth. Nurture it, grow it, by loving and caring for others, loving yourself, accepting change, knowing that you are loved more than you could ever imagine and that you can change the world, perhaps not in great ways, but in small ways with great love. And that is what having faith means. All the rest is detail.

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