The link between the Church and the new Heritage and Learning Centre will create a new hub for Paddington, offering fantastic scope for study, training, volunteering and cultural and artistic activities. A single week at St Mary Mags for example might see a local school group collecting materials for their history GCSE project, passing tourists pausing to look at the church (guided by a ‘look and find’ style leaflet assisted by a project volunteer), an overseas delegation studying architecture, a local film society working in the gothic gloom of the undercroft, evening talks and concerts and regular day classes in the new classroom run by a local college.
To help plan these activities, and consider how they could be funded on an ongoing basis, the Project commissioned two experts in Heritage Lottery programming to shape the ‘Activity Plan’. The first step for them was to discuss ideas with a high number of local groups and individuals. From these discussions some key themes emerged to help form priorities for a week by week plan of activities. The activities will be managed by one of the two project managers who will be appointed nearer completion of the building works.
Four guiding themes emerged from the consultation. They were:
- Telling the Story of Paddington’s Living Heritage: For example: exhibitions can be co-created with local volunteers to explore aspects of Paddington’s rich heritage, drawing on material from partner organisations such as London Metropolitan Archives.
- Celebrating and Sharing Paddington’s Living Heritage: A programme of lively events to animate St Mary Magdalene’s. For example: heritage days linked to wider festivals such as the London Festival of Architecture; workshops for families run by Westminster Adult Education Service, using the artistry at the Church to inspire craft activities.
- Living Heritage Learning Journeys: formal heritage learning which leads to the development of skills and qualifications, for example: apprenticeships and work placements supported by City of Westminster College to develop customer care skills; access for local schools to provide an inspiring setting for curriculum-related learning.
- Caring for, Creating and Collecting Paddington’s Living Heritage: For example: opportunities to work alongside conservators on cleaning and recording tasks; welcoming and customer service roles and research and interpretation roles.
These general overall themes have already shaped activities at the Church. For example, The People’s Show brought in young actors to develop a play which physically moved its audience through every nook and cranny of the building, exploring each for its dramatic potential. July 2015 saw an art based project run in the church for a week during which local children and adults screen printed T-shirts and bags with motifs inspired by the iconography on walls and ceilings. The interest and acclaim these relatively small projects succeeded in evoking suggest we have not yet scraped the surface of the rich brew of creative ideas that will come from linking the Church to a new Heritage and Learning Centre.