Out of my many personal highlights of the inaugural Salisbury Literary Festival last weekend was after Philippa Gregory’s event in the cathedral on Saturday night. To see the nave all but full for a literary event was a remarkable sight. For anyone who thinks that people don’t read or aren’t interested in books anymore, this was a welcome riposte.

Philippa’s talk encompassed the role of many of the women who played their part in the reformation and featured in her books. One of these was Catherine Grey. ‘Does Philippa know that she is buried in the cathedral?’ the Canon Treasurer said to me afterwards. Once the signing was finished and the cathedral was empty, I took Philippa to show her Catherine Grey’s tomb.

As we walked down to where the Canon Treasurer had pointed where it was, I suddenly wished I had asked precisely where she was buried. I found myself nervously scanning each tomb and inscription for a clue. Fortunately, we found it: Philippa’s eyes sparkled in wonder as she took in the resting point of one of the women she had been writing about.

The relationship between the church and the arts is a longstanding one in Salisbury. They offer wonderful, atmospheric settings for events; the events in turn make the most of these remarkable buildings. The annual Farley Music Festival, for example, makes full use of the village’s beautiful All Saints’ Church. In Lower Bemerton, St John’s offers a backdrop for all sorts of events, including the monthly Bemerton Film Society.

But the most obvious example in city, perhaps, is Salisbury Arts Centre, formerly St Edmund’s Church. Officially founded in 1979, the Arts Centre had its origins in the 1970s, when church attendances were dwindling. It was decided to merge the church’s congregation with neighbouring St Thomas’s and use the building for social, educational and recreational activities instead.

St Edmund’s Arts Centre was born, which in turn became the Salisbury Arts Centre we know today.

This coming Saturday, the Arts Centre is opening up the archives to the public for a special drop-in workshop. I caught up with board trustee and volunteer archivist Kate Dalton to have a look through some of what would be on show. She talked me through a fascinating treasure trove of newspaper clippings, photographs, brochures and posters from the last four decades.

Looking at the spread of what the Arts Centre has put on is a reminder of both the richness and diversity of their programme over the years: Kate showed me cuttings of everything from a 1989 play starring Bob Hoskins and Maggie Smith to a 1995 performance by grindcore godfathers Napalm Death.

Kate is someone for whom the Arts Centre holds many memories: as a young child, she remembers going to their Five-Penny Festival in the 1970s: she then returned professionally as a performer as an adult and is now there as a trustee.

She clearly isn’t alone in the Arts Centre having played a big part in their life – and giving them an introduction into the arts they might otherwise not have got.

One of the impetuses behind opening up the archive is the merger of the Arts Centre into one organisation along with the Playhouse and International Arts Festival: looking forward to that has led to looking back as well.

Dotted throughout the press cuttings are frequent articles about financial battles the Arts Centre has faced, not least the decision of Wiltshire Council in 2015 to cut its funding. Hopefully the merger will now give the Arts Centre the sort of solid foundation it needs for the future.

That would certainly honour the building’s inspiration. Back when the original St Edmund’s was founded in 1269, it was named after the canonised Edmund Rich. Rich, before he was ordained, was a teacher of the arts himself.

The Salisbury Arts Centre Archive Day takes place on Saturday between 10am and 4pm.