St John’s Waterloo - familiar to many as the church on the roundabout at the south end of Waterloo Bridge - has been responding to local need since it was built in 1824. In 1940, a German firebomb destroyed the nave. Roofless but undaunted, services continued, and in 1951, St John’s stepped up to become the official church of the *Festival of Britain - a beacon of renewed hope.
Now, with a grant of £22,500 from Benefact Trust Hope Beyond programme, it is reaching out to those whose lives - already challenged by poverty and deprivation - have been made harder still by the pandemic, especially people experiencing homelessness, young people and local people needing practical and emotional support to find work. Its fast-evolving, many-faceted response programme is called Waterloo Well.
Waterloo Well is a series of projects that will evolve as community needs change, funding increases and partners come on board. Already in place are the following:
- Hostel reading group - Waterloo Well has introduced national charity, The Reader, to train residents of a homeless hostel in Waterloo to run group reading sessions and build their experience of community.
- Hostel therapy & street therapy - As soon as lockdown lifts, a Waterloo Well therapist will spend time with residents in a Lambeth hostel and psychologists will be sent out to work with vulnerable young people on the streets of Waterloo.
- Here for Work – The programme is running employment and resilience courses for vulnerable people in partnership with Big Local, Bermondsey, and Waterloo hostels.
- Homeless heritage - Waterloo Well has invited social affairs journalist, Samir Jeraj, to make podcasts with people experiencing homelessness, capturing the experiences of life on the streets around St John’s over the last 40 years.
- Artists-in-residence – The programme’s artist-in-residence is ready, post lockdown, to start work with people who use a local homeless day centre, helping them find new creative ways of responding to the times.
- Digital and Music creatives - In partnership with Accumulate (the art school for the people experiencing homelessness) and IKLECTIK (Lambeth’s experimental, inter-disciplinary arts venue) Waterloo Well is running digital art workshops for people living on the streets. Longer term, it’s going to be offering young people the chance to be trained by leading professionals at the Augmented Instruments Lab, at Queen Mary University's Centre for Digital Music.
In addition to the Hope Beyond funding, St John’s previously received a grant of £25,000 from Benefact Trust Growing Lives Programme, which is supporting the transformation of the church’s crypt into ‘Youthspace’ – a place of refuge for local young people to call their own, giving them the opportunity to explore their potential and grow in the community.
Chloe Ewen, Grants Officer for Benefact Trust, said: “We’re delighted to support St John’s Waterloo with two major projects which will provide vital community support and offer vulnerable local people opportunities for a more promising future.”
Revd. Canon Giles Goddard, vicar of St John’s and CEO of The Bridge at Waterloo, which runs Waterloo Well, said: “Thanks to our generous Hope Beyond grant from Benefact Trust and another from the London Recovery Fund, we’ve been able to respond to the pandemic with support that puts the individual centre stage.
“By summer 2021, as long as the pandemic recedes, we’ll be running a range of activities shaped by the people we engage with and we’ll be proving that there really is Hope Beyond!”
* A national exhibition that reached millions of visitors throughout the United Kingdom in the summer of 1951