The Camden 4
By Susan Miller (January 2022)
Four churches – the ‘Camden 4’ – within a mile of each other in in the southern part of the London Borough of Camden have been awarded a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) to support a unique collaborative effort.
This is an important milestone as they face the challenge of repairing their buildings, along with identifying how best to meet the needs of their communities. . . .
This initiative of four churches working together has been developed as a pilot within the Diocese of London and the learning from it can hopefully provide a model that similar groups of churches could follow.
All of the four church buildings – Holy Cross, Cromer Street (Grade II); St George the Martyr, and associated burial gardens (both Grade II*); St Mary the Virgin, Eversholt Street (Grade II); St Mary Magdalene, Munster Square (Grade II*) – are on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.
All four churches are already undertaking some community outreach work. In recent years, however, they have found themselves surrounded by major commercial and housing regeneration developments, which are taking place in areas of urban deprivation and causing long-standing communities to be left behind.
Aims of the project
The project will undertake a wider community area audit with the aim of consulting widely with the churches’ local communities, to attract local people and volunteers to support the future of the four heritage buildings, and bolster each church’s resilience. This will provide the opportunity for the church communities not only to understand the local context of their own sites, but also to understand the context of the cluster area that all four churches share and to discover where there may be potential for collaboration in the future.
The grant of £70,735, towards total project costs of £85,735, will enable the enhanced impact from bringing together these four closely linked parishes to be evaluated.
The idea of the four churches working together came from Kevin Rogers, Director of Parish Property, London Diocesan Fund, who has hailed the NLHF’s support: “I am delighted the NLHF supported this innovative and unique approach to the long-standing challenge posed by this cluster of churches which, while active, are all deemed Heritage at Risk”.
The pilot project will form part of a wider review, which is intended to help the London Diocesan Fund understand how its churches can play a larger role within the lives of their communities.
Alice Yates, the Project Organiser, says about the churches that:
“They are all facing similar challenges, they are all on the Heritage at Risk Register, they have all got challenging repair liabilities, they are all trying to support their congregants and communities, and have all been impacted by Covid.
“And we thought that better than them trying to do similar activities separately, it might be helpful for them to go through an exercise that encourages them to talk to each of their immediate communities and find out whether strategically they can all focus on different aspects, in terms of how they might be using their church buildings and supporting their communities.
“We know that in the medium term we will need to develop major bids to the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) for each of the four churches. As this will be a similar process for each we thought it would be worth asking the NLHF if they would welcome a pilot project that involved the four working together in collaboration and learning together. They agreed but we had to apply for the grant using just one PCC, which was St George the Martyr in Holborn.”
The grant is supporting certain project activities across the parishes – the main activity being the Business Plan, which will cover all four churches but will also include an individual income and expenditure account for each one.
The Camden 4 Steering Group is chaired by the Ven. John Hawkins, and consists of the four incumbents and their deputies, who worked together on the application. They are overseeing the delivery of the project, supported by the project organiser who is helping them understand the processes of delivering the project and meeting NHLF’s conditions.
The group meets every six weeks to report on progress, as well as each church providing feedback on their individual progress. These regular meetings also ensure that each church feels supported and can learn from one another.
The findings of this pilot project will be used to inform the development of major capital programmes of repairs and refurbishments at each church building.
“It’s all about strengthening each organisation and preparing them for major building works and, in turn, if we are successful, then it will strengthen each future bid to the NLHF. Ultimately we want to get all four churches off the Heritage at Risk Register and ensure they all have a sustainable future,” Alice said. The solution for each church will be particular to that church and may involve a range of uses, e.g. community, mission and commercial.
Alice added that “another key element is an Area Community Audit that will cover the whole area covered by the four churches, and this audit will hopefully guide us in terms of what the community needs from each place of worship. This will, in turn, inform the strategic direction each parish adopts.”
Volunteers will be asked to become Champions of their church buildings, helping to secure a sustainable future for each. And locals and volunteers will be offered training, learning and mentoring opportunities. “We are looking to train up welcomers, who will gain the confidence to introduce visitors to the heritage of each of their churches and tell their stories… The hope is that this will continue, that the volunteers will be enabled to continue to talk to the communities as the projects develop in the future.”
Alice said all four churches have engaged congregations and already engage with community groups and visitors, but the heritage activities and consultation aim to identify and involve new groups and audiences. She said they were hoping to attract a pool of volunteers “large enough so that they can be shared among the four parishes.
“We are trialling specific heritage activities with the objective of preparing each PCC and organisation for their future capital projects – and are aiming to strengthen the individual capacity of each church to improve the management of their heritage building and to prioritise their strategic focus.”
Alice explained that the aim is to finish the Business Plan by the end of August, “and by early summer, we hope to have a better handle on what the community needs are. We are also in parallel undertaking condition surveys so that we have an understanding of the repairs, their cost plus what the refurbishment costs will be for each place of worship.”
After the project
The Business Plan will form the foundation of a Development Stage Bid to the NLHF for each of the four churches.
Alice also said they intend to “take the Evaluation Report and the lessons learned, and assess how we can improve on this pilot and potentially deliver it again for other clusters throughout the Diocese”.
She said once the project is completed they may well go back to the NLHF and ask whether they would be willing to accept a bid for Capital Works that involved all four churches, so that they could continue this collaborative way of working in the future.
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Anyone interested in the training, learning and consultation opportunities of this project should email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can read more about the project here https://www.london.anglican.org/articles/national-lottery-grant-welcomed-by-four-camden-churches/
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