The Feast of St Giles
With the end of the long, fairly hot summer, the month of September brings cooler, fresher days and a renewed busyness appropriate to the new season. The cycle of the academic year resumes, new projects are promoted, and with fuller work forces, business and commerce pick up their momentum. The underground becomes manic again!
September is the month of our annual Patronal Festival (on the 7th), a time to take stock, to give thanks to God for all those who have gone before us in faith, and to seek continued guidance for the year to come. We look forward to the visit of Bishop Stephen Platten, a good friend of St Giles, who will preach for us at the 6.30pm Evening Service. Stephen, previously Bishop of Wakefield, has now taken a parish in London, and so is on hand to join us easily. I imagine he has often been asked to preach at Patronal Festivals in the past. We shall have some refreshments afterwards to prolong the festival spirit.
On the day before, the 6th, the Phoenix Gardens Agricultural Show and St Giles Fayre returns to the churchyard for the 5th, time after taking a break last year (see the box above). The redevelopment of the churchyard began last December and all was on course for the project to be well and truly completed long before this September. However, planning constraints have meant that we lost about four months (previously mentioned in The Pelican). As a result, the project is not now due to be completed until 17th September. However, the Fayre will still go ahead, even though the new playground will not be finished, which is a shame. We are again indebted to Jane and Chris of Phoenix Garden who have done all the organising for this important community event. Please come and support it. Alan Carr
Modes of Remembrance:
The Act and Art of Remembrance
September also sees the installation of an unusual exhibition at St Giles by the artist Grace Adam, (who has kindly supplied an explanation of her work, reproduced below). For some time now Grace has been working on a series of sculptural installations to reflect the importance of the past, and how we interact with it today. The exhibition is called ‘Modes of Remembrance: The Act and Art of Remembrance.’ The Preview evening is on Thursday, 19th September, and from then onwards the exhibition will be open when the Church is open (except for times of worship) until the end of October. Regular members of our congregation will therefore become very familiar with the pieces Grace has produced. We very much hope others will be drawn to visit, to reflect equally on this place and its past, and of how are lives are shaped both by that past itself, and by the way we remember it. We look forward to seeing Grace’s work in its entirety this month.
Alongside this Grace is holding a drawing workshop as part of national BIG DRAW campaign day on Wednesday, 8th October. (See the Big Draw website for more information). Under St Giles it says: ‘Come and use wire to construct 3D drawings of London’s buildings and skyline. Visit the Drawing Booth! Local workers, passers-by and invited groups will be able to come and spend 10 minutes or a couple of hours drawing in this amazing space. Taking the city and its iconic buildings and skyline as our focus, you will be able to draw with wire, visit our Drawing Booth, and participate in other drawing activities. Everyone is welcome, whether you are a complete beginner or have lots of experience, and it’s FREE!’ Regular members of our congregations, as well as people from the wider community, would be very welcome to join in with this day.
Grace Adams writes:
‘I should start with a bit of background. My name is Grace Adam, and I am an artist and lecturer. I took a Degree in painting at Nottingham, and then went back to do my MA at Chelsea College of Art, where I studied Sculpture and Installation. I stayed on there to do a Fellowship for a year. I teach at Tate, University of the Arts London, The National Portrait Gallery, and The Royal Academy.
‘One of the best aspects of teaching is that I work with people who have very different experiences of art, and of education. Talking about an exhibition to a sceptical audience at the Tate is interesting as well as challenging, and convincing Graphic Design students that they really should put down their phone and do some drawing is very challenging! For me, though it’s very simple: art should be an essential part of life.
‘As an artist, I am interested in spaces. What we build, and how we learn to use and negotiate spaces – whether they be private, like our homes, or public, like churches or museums – informs the way we treat one another. I am convinced that good urban planning and architecture is good for humans. There is, of course, lots of research to support this, but for some reason as a society, we don’t take it these matters seriously as I think we should. What we decide to put in our spaces is also interesting: how do we encourage and facilitate a sense of community and mutual respect in public spaces? On a domestic level, our furniture, ornaments, and possessions all say a lot about us. They provide a portrait.
‘A few years ago I was an ‘artist-in-residence’ at Frederick Gibberd’s house in Harlow, which meant being connected to a particular institution, organisation or building for a few weeks or months, with the chance to carry out research and make artwork in response to that research. The result was called ‘Masterplan No. 9.’ It addressed questions that arose from the project to build Harlow New Town in the late 1940s in order to create a successful new community from the ground up. For myself it was a great opportunity to explore my longstanding curiosity about notions of beauty and efficacy. William Morris once declared that you should have ‘nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful;’ but the values that inspire the creation of both objects and buildings alter and shift.
‘My time at St Giles has come out of my looking for a religious space to respond to artistically. Having said that, not just any religious space would have worked. St Giles, however, is an exceptionally beautiful space. It is elegant, functional and uplifting. Not only is it a great building, it also houses a large and diverse collection of monuments and memorials. As I walked to work at the National Portrait Gallery one day, I passed the Church and popped in with a view to talking to someone about an idea to make art work that investigated the ways we remember people, and who we choose to remember at different times in history. I met Alan’s Jack Russell pottering down the nave. Alan and I talked; I went away wrote up my proposal, and he shared it with his colleagues. From then on I had to decide what I wanted to focus on. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the architecture and rich history of this ancient part of our city.
‘I explored the possibility of making artwork that responded to particular memorials. The church is an extremely elegant building, and I think that it is often overlooked as people rush back and forth to work. Part of my ‘job’, I felt, was to alert people to its presence, its beauty and perhaps to ‘put it on the map’ for a new audience. I have read acres of literature about the church, wobbled around at the top of stepladders in dark corners trying to read inscriptions, made lots of drawings and taken dozens of photographs. In my studio, I have experimented with ideas and materials. A small research grant from University of the Arts London, and also from Arts Council England means that I have had time to look, enjoy, be confused and finally to make the pieces of art that will be installed in the church from 19th September to the end of October. The Opening Evening is September 19th, and it would be wonderful to see you there.
‘In addition, on 8th October I will be leading a Big Draw day, as a way of engaging young people, (Soho Parish School,) and not-so-young people in drawing and with St Giles itself. St Mungos, who help people recover from the issues that create homelessness, are also getting involved. We are very grateful for financial support from Thomas Shelton Educational Charity. The Big Draw is a month of Drawing activates that happen all over the country, and in other parts of the world, so do come along! Grace Adam
The Churchyard Restoration Project
Gill Wynne-Williams, the landscape architect who has led the restoration of the churchyard has supplied an up-date for us. We have enjoyed working with the team of professionals on this project, which will, we are sure, add immeasurably to the value of the churchyard for the local community and visitors alike.
‘The works that started in the churchyard in December 2013 are now nearing completion. The project aimed to renovate the churchyard and create a better setting for the church, by simplifying the design of the churchyard and opening up views from St Giles Passage and St Giles High Street.
‘Much of the churchyard has now re-opened but some areas are still being worked on. The last areas to be refurbished are the playground, ball court, and the entrance from St Giles Passage. A new boundary wall is being built between the Phoenix Garden and the playground.
‘The playground will be getting new equipment, fencing and seating and the ball court will be re surfaced. At the St Giles passage entrance the gate has been restored and new railings will be fixed on top of the refurbished walls. A new wider flight of steps will lead into the churchyard from this entrance.
‘The works are due to finish in September, and most of the churchyard will be open for the Agricultural Fayre on Saturday 6th September.’ Gill Wynne-Williams
A Community Audit
We have written about this before. After far too long a delay we are hopeful that through the autumn we will be asking members of our congregation and the wider community to reflect upon what life is like in the neighbourhood of St Giles, and of the church’s place within it.
First Sunday Giving
On the first Sunday in August we collected for the last time this year for the work of Mind in Camden. A total of £1098 (included gift-aid) has been raised over the year and we are very grateful to all those who have contributed. Mental Health services in the community are hard-pressed in these times of straightened finances in the care services, so it is good to be able to support Mind in Camden’s work in this modest way. We wish them well in the provision of their important services in the coming time.
As September is our Patronal month, our First Sunday collection (on the 7th) will be for The Leprosy Mission. On account of our foundation in 1101 to provide respite for lepers, St Giles has long been associated with this work, which today is carried on by the Mission. We are pleased to be able to support them in this way. If you are with us on the 7th, your generosity will be much appreciated.
The Buried Treasure Bible Reading Group
We are having a break from Buried Treasure at the start of September, as I am away in Israel for part of it. But the group will resume on Tuesday, 23rd September, and will then meet the following Tuesday, the 30th both from 1pm to 2pm. Our long journey through the gospel of John has finally come to an end, and we now turn our attention to the world of the Old Testament for a while. We’ll look at the extraordinary history of the people of Israel and their life of faith through the generations, and try to unravel the web of stories that surround their founding characters, and that inhabit the voices of their sons and daughters. Visitors and new members are always very welcome to join us. Alan Carr
It was a real pleasure to welcome Theoni Pepito Raido for her baptism on 17th August, together with her parents, godparents, families and friends. We pray that God will be with her throughout her life.
We are celebrating two weddings at the very end of August (after this edition of The Pelican is produced). We therefore offer our very best wishes to Kyle Brazier and Lucy Sage from Romford and to Tony Walker and Siew Lim, from Australia. Two other wedding services are taking place this year at St Giles, one in October and one in November.
On 18th August a simple 50th Anniversary Service of Blessing was conducted for Peter and Billie-Jean Gergis who had come over from California for the occasion. They were engaged after knowing each other for only 3 weeks, and were married not long afterwards by Gordon Taylor. Three of their five children joined them – all very special. We prayed for the years still to come and for their bond of love.