New art gallery in Plaistow church

The Tower Gallery in Plaistow officially opened its first exhibition, Art Arising, on Thursday evening 3 October. Nearly 100 people attended the opening, including Councillors Brian Collier, Marie Collier and Kay Scoresby.

Tower  Gallery photo 2Created in the east tower of the historic Plaistow Memorial Church building, the gallery is a partnership between Memorial Community Church and Rosetta Art Centre, which has curated this inaugural exhibition of 63 works by 16 local Newham artists. The project is supported by grants from Community First Canning Town North and Let’s Get the Party Started.

Plaistow Memorial Church has received funding from the National Churches Trust over the last two years to help fund major repairs and improvements, including improving access and repairing crumbling brickwork.

Sanaz Amidi, Director of Rosetta Art Centre said:
“Rosetta are proud to have collaborated with Memorial Church to transform their tower to offer an alternative contemporary art gallery to platform the exciting, bold and diverse work by Newham`s talented creative community! We look forward to a continued relationship to ensure our artists have access to a range of opportunities to empower them and acknowledge the important role arts and culture plays in the continued regeneration of the area.”

The exhibition is free and is open until 20 December from 11 am – 2 pm on Tuesdays-Fridays, 1 -3 pm on Saturdays and on the first Thursday of each month from 6-9 pm.

The gallery makes use of the tower stairwell to display the artwork rising up to four floors, which means there is no step-free access. However a video tour was shown at the opening event and will be available to view by arrangement.
Tower Gallery is located at Memorial Community Church, 395 Barking Road, Plaistow E13 8AL.

The exhibiting artists are: Anne Brown, Antonietta Torsiello, Daksha Amin, David Ross, Dimitrios Oikonomou, Frank Jennings, Karen Colley, Klaus Pinter, Mairi Bugg, Michael John Wills, Parvin Khoshdel, Rayna Nadeem, Ricardo di Ceglia, Ricky Aitchinson, Steve Marriott, Tim Timewell.
For more information see the gallery’s Facebook page  telephone Rosetta Art Centre on 0207 511 1117 or email development@memorialcc.org

Timothy Betjeman at All Saints, Margaret Street

In a guest post, artist Timothy Betjeman writes about his new paintings of All Saints Church, Margaret Street in London’ s West End.

I was born and lived most of my life in America, so I have come to know England, and especially London, where I now live, through painting parts of it over the last seven years. 

Timothy Betjeman All Saints Margaret Street

Timothy Betjeman All Saints Margaret Street

It is a frequent occurrence for me, as a primarily ‘plein air’ painter, to be working in a place that has caught my interest for whatever reason, and to discover that its history at some point entwined with that of my grandfather, Sir John Betjeman, especially if the place happens to be a church.  All Saints , Margaret Street was no exception.  When I began painting at All Saints, I was quickly informed by a parishioner who took note of my surname that he had enthused about the church in a series on Victorian Architecture for the BBC in 1970.

I somewhat wished I’d discovered it myself—and it really does feel like a discovery, hidden like a treasure between tall buildings, invisible save for its spire until one is practically in its courtyard.  But my jealousy soon gave way to a comforting thought, that this building, designed for a purpose by William Butterfield in 1850, and still used for that purpose today, could attract our mutual admiration.

I was very young when my grandfather died, so I never really knew him.  When I come upon buildings like All Saints, that I know he touched, or was touched by, and if I feel the same thing, there is a sense of knowing him through that.  I think that my engagement with these places develops in a different way than it did for him, but the initial attraction to great architecture and the atmosphere it affords is a major source for me as an artist as it was for him.

I liked the ritual of working in the church

My introduction to All Saints Margaret Street was in 2012 by my friend Alistair Fletcher who brought me to a service there, promising it had a very good choir (it did), and urged me to do a painting of its eccentric interior.  After the service I spoke to the vicar, Alan Moses, and he was enthusiastic about the idea, so I started showing up 3 or 4 times a week.  I would set up my easel in the morning near the back of the church and work through the 1:10 Mass, and pack up when the electric lights came on just before Evening Prayer.  I liked the ritual of working in the church so much that I ended up doing ten paintings instead of one, and a series of etchings as well; so I spoke to the vicar again at the end of it all, and we decided to do a show.

Timothy Betjeman, All Saints Margaret Street

Timothy Betjeman, All Saints Margaret Street

I’m accustomed to painting on the street, where people are moving about me very quickly and their movement must be integrated with the relative stillness of the architectural forms.  Painting at All Saints was unique in that the dynamic was reversed.  The people (and usually there were one or two, even between Masses) stayed perfectly still while the wild zigzags and gilded decoration on the walls and floor seemed to turn on and off and shift with the light as it came in sudden streaks through the high chancel windows.  I spent a long time studying the way natural light came in and competed with the invented light of the designs covering the inside of the church.  There was a kind of weather system to the place that related to but was wholly different from the one outside.  One feels this as soon as one enters the dark quiet of the church and inhales.

In the course of the 6 months or so that I spent painting at All Saints, and the time I have spent there since, I am very thankful for how kindly I was received by the priests, wardens and all of the parishioners.  It is a rare place, and truly a living church.

Timothy Betjeman At All Saints’  exhibition, will be open daily (12 – 6pm) from  22 – 27 October at 7 Margaret Street, London W1W 8JG.   A portion of the sales will benefit All Saints Church

More information about the exhibition 

More about All Saints,  Margaret Street

Not just a children’s corner…

Yorkshire, MONK FRYSTON, St Wilfrid (Sarah Crossland 2012) #002Recently I had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful church of St Wilfrid, Monk Fryston near York.

I was there to help assess their application for funding from the National Churches Trust, for repairs to the stone tile roof of the church. However, whilst there I was struck by the warm welcome I was given by everyone there to meet me, and by the obvious community involvement with the church – particularly the close relationship between the church and local children.

The evidence of their work and involvement with the church is all around the building, quite literally when you realise that around the walls of the nave are drawings and paintings of the Vicar by local schoolchildren.

Yorkshire, MONK FRYSTON, St Wilfrid (Sarah Crossland 2012) #045Revd John Hetherington told me ‘The pictures were part of a competition by the Year 1 & Year 2 children to see who could paint the best picture of ‘Me’. It was done in November of this year and there were prizes for the best three and these were presented in school a couple of weeks ago. Many of the kids from school also attend the St Wilfrid’s Sunday Club’. What was especially lovely was the care with which the drawings were displayed… neatly but with pride of place, and adding to the warm welcoming feeling within the building.

Yorkshire, MONK FRYSTON, St Wilfrid (Sarah Crossland 2012) #038Looking more closely, at the east end of the north aisle is a wonderful ‘reredos’ created from fired clay tiles – each created by a child from the Church School (Monk Fryston Church of England Primary School). They were completed two years ago in the summer of 2010, with each child did an image of what ‘God’ meant to them personally. Once the slides had been kiln-fired they were divided, with half were placed in the church and the other half in the entrance to the school.

These projects are brilliant, one permanent and one temporary but both enhancing and confirming the relationship between the church and local children. This is one of the most important things a village church can do. Local children will form the backbone of the community who will one day care for the building, encouraging them to see it as ‘theirs’ is vital.

So, if you are ever up near Monk Fryston why not pay a visit to this beautiful and engaging church.

Church History:

There is evidence that there was a pre-conquest church on the site and in all probability Archbishop Thomas re-built the church around 1080. Building work continued into the 15th century and  on the 12th May 1444 the then Archbishop issued a commission to John, Bishop of Philippopolis to dedicate and consecrate the parish church and churchyard at Monkfriston. There is documentary proof that would suggest the church was originally dedicated to St Mary. In two 16th century parishoners’ wills they state – William Wheldale in 1547 desired to be buried “in the church yerde of our ladie in Monkfriston” and Ralph Horsman in 1553 “within the churche of oure blessed ladie at Monke Friston”.

You can pick up a full history of the church when you visit, as I did.

Church Roof Project:

With such a long history, it’s not surprising that the church roof and parts of the tower have now developed more leaks than there are buckets to contain them and essential restoration work needs to be carried out to rectify this. Of course, this does not come without a considerable cost implication, and whilst English Heritage have generously offered a grant of £110,000 towards the repairs, an additional amount of around £50,000 is still needed.

Unfortunately the National Churches Trust was unable to offer St Wilfrid’s a grant as our grant programmes are always greatly oversubscribed for the amount of funding we have available to distribute.

But, the church has established a fundraising and events group ‘Wilfileaks‘. If you can help with their efforts please get in touch with them directly.

Yorkshire, MONK FRYSTON, St Wilfrid (Sarah Crossland 2012) #025

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