As mentioned in this post, I was asked to take part in a discussion about reclaiming London landmarks through art and how we can make young people feel like the city is their own.
It was great to be in a room with so many different groups, about six or seven collectives from around London were represented in total. There was a lot of discussion about the role of the Cathedral in London life and how the intersecting factors of race, religion, class and gender (to name a few) have conspired to keep London’s famous places out of the hands of its citizens.
We talked a lot about community engagement – how do we get people from the local area (ie. Hoxton/Shoreditch/Bethnal Green/Mile End, not the City of London) to use St. Paul’s as a venue for their cultural performances and exhibits?
I don’t have an easy answer except to say that whatever it is will require a lot of work. I hope something constructive will come of these discussions. Before I left the Cathedral, I got chatting to the chaplain who was on duty that day – she was an elderly vicar from Hackney who does one day a month helping in the Cathedral. We chatted for almost an hour about theology and art and how the two can and should come together to shine a light on injustice and hold up examples of goodness in the world. I am not religious but we found a lot to talk about and her views on many things surprised me – she was of the opinion that the Church had failed to act as Christ would have acted by shutting the doors to the Occupy protesters. She proceeded to tell me that the Cathedral walked a fine line between remaining spiritual and remaining open (it receives no government funding so relies entirely on donations and ridiculous entry fees). We discussed how art that presses on those cracks might be useful.
She’s invited me to her parish church to have a look around, chat some more and maybe even do an artistic project within her community!