Festive fundraiser to save Old St Mary’s Church

Community arts and music events take place inside the Old and New Church on Church Road pic: Sarah Robson

A local group of famous actors and musicians will perform on Saturday at Old St Mary’s Church to help save the 400-year-old church from closing.

Proceeds from the performance will go towards the major fundraising effort to transform the church in Stoke Newington into a community arts centre.

The night of festive readings and song, Money for Old Prose, now in its fourth year, needs to raise £900,000 to keep the Stoke Newington church open to the public.

Reverend Jonathon Clark told EastLondonLines that the church has already raised £100,000 but that it “needs a significant fundraising event to get the ball rolling”.

He said: “There are two listed churches on Church Street. We can afford to keep one, but not two. The local community need to know that this is crunch time for the church.

“This isn’t just fundraising, it’s consciousness raising.”

A variety of famous Hackney residents including Eastenders’ star Paul Bradley, comedienne Carrie Quinlan, and actresses Maggie Steed and Selina Cadell, will perform alongside local singers, The Occasional Choir, on December 11.

Selina Cadell, who is returning to perform at Money for Old Prose, said: “It’s such a pleasure to perform in the old church. A tiny church like this, in the middle of a busy city, feels like a stolen treasure.”

Fundraiser Sarah Robson added: “We are thrilled that Selina and the whole troupe are coming back for what promises to be another wonderfully entertaining evening, and for helping them to raise funds for the work needed to save and transform the church.”

The church aim to have an arts centre for the benefit of all people in Stoke Newington, and to provide a meeting space for different community groups serving the public, something that Reverend Clark hopes will “increase community cohesion” in Hackney.

Partners working towards St Mary’s Art Centre for the Community are St Mary’s parish, Stoke Newington Secondary School, Common Air Theatre, and local Turkish and Kurdish arts charity RenkArt.

RenkArt use the church space to host art exhibitions, which regularly bring up to 500 people from the Stoke Newington Turkish community together.

St Mary’s allow the charity to use the space for no cost. As a small charity with a low budget, Erdogan Kucuk, representative for RenkArt, says they will face severe financial problems if St Mary’s Church closes, significantly disrupting their role in the Turkish arts community.

Helen Wood, director of specialism at Stoke Newington School, says that the school has a strong reputation in promoting the arts: “We see our involvement with the St. Mary’s Community Art Centre as a natural extension of the work we do,” she said.

The event will take place on Saturday at 7.45pm. Tickets are £12/£10 concessions and are available on the door. To reserve a ticket email artsmanager@smartn16.org

For more information on the SMART project and other St. Mary’s Church events, click here.

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