London’s historic Union Chapel church has been granted funding by Benefact Trust to convert its Grade II Listed Sunday School into a centre for creative community outreach, with a focus on sharing stories from the most disadvantaged within the community including refugees and asylum seekers, young people, the LGBTQ+ community, people experiencing homelessness, those with disabilities and Black, Asian and ethnic minority groups.
The project, ‘Sunday School Stories’, is intended to meet the needs of these communities - identified by Union Chapel and partners at Islington Council, Families First and the Refugee Council - by creating a dedicated space for community healing, learning and storytelling.
Sunday School Stories (SSS) will provide a space and forum for projects that are enriching, skills-based and free, such as Music and Song Writing, Bookmaking, Conservation, English language skills and Art Therapy.
The project will make available Union Chapel’s historic archives amassed since 1799, inspiring refugees, asylum seekers and others to write their own stories that echo the collection’s history of non-conformist faith, social justice and activism. Sunday School Stories’ proposed Hidden Chapel Art Therapy will take a story or item from the collection, transforming it into a piece of hidden art in the chapel for audiences to find by accident.
The Benefact Trust grant will allow Union Chapel to repair and conserve the Grade II listed Sunday school for future generations, while it is estimated that more than 10,000 people will make use of the improved space year on year.
Union Chapel project leader, Barbara Basini, said: “With the generous assistance of partners like Benefact Trust and our local authority, Union Chapel’s Sunday School Stories will become a caring and creative hub for some of the most disadvantaged within our community, a place where they can receive support, learn new skills and weave their stories and experiences into the fabric of Union Chapel’s unique history.”
Chloe Ewen, Grants Officer for Benefact Trust, added: “We’re delighted to support this unique project which will provide a base for vulnerable members of the community to come together, learn from each other and learn from the rich history of the building. It will be a real asset to the most disadvantaged and also the wider community. We can’t wait to visit SSS when the work is complete and see its positive impact for ourselves.”
Following building and conservation works, Sunday School Stories at Union Chapel is expected to open its doors in September 2023, offering Islington’s diverse and dynamic community a vibrant and welcoming space for creative outreach and support.