The St. Mary Mags Project …

This Project is not easily summed up in just a few words. However, put simply, the Project aims to refurbish this lovely old church, removing decades of grime and decay, and to and build a new Heritage and Learning Centre at its West End. However, the mission of the project goes deeper than cleaning and bricks and mortar.

When St Mary Mags was built, with its towering spire and interior splendour, it was with a clear purpose: to act as a beacon within a very poor and neglected part of London, to raise hopes and pride within local residents, help create a coherent community and inspire spiritual regeneration.

In the same vein the Project’s primary purpose is to provide a new interface between the Church and the community, allowing the historic connection which is fundamental to the Church’s mission to be re-made in new, more modern, ways. These will include creating greater access to the church for all its local communities, creating opportunities for self-expression, learning, personal development and acting as a positive and integrating force in what is still a very deprived part of London.

While the Church will remain a place of worship it will also encourage access to those whose primary interest is in art, or history, getting a qualification, running a community or education group or learning new skills to get a job in the heritage sector. It will offer work placements to people seeking experience in customer care or tourism for example as well as supporting access to more specialist occupations related to the repair and cleaning of old buildings. The refurbished church will also seek to open its doors more widely by housing a number of large-scale cultural events including theatre and concerts.

Mary Mags New Learning and Heritage CentreHowever, while this refurbishment will allow for greater intensity of use, there are limits to the scope for physical adaptations within the Church itself. Interventions to improve access and provide facilities for a wider range of functions must therefore be concentrated outside the envelope of the historic building. This is why a new build Heritage and Learning Centre is needed.

Given the size and shape of the plot of available land next to the church. The new Centre will be of necessity a small building but one with a big job of work to do. Its primary purpose is to provide an extended interface between the Church and the local community. It must be able to accommodate the uses and vitality required by the ambition of the project. It will include both a classroom and a café, spilling out into the land next to the canal. The range of activities that can be encompassed within the new Centre is wide and they are described in detail in the Project’s ‘Activity Plan’.

An important consideration for the project is the relationship between a Christian building, with its Christian heritage, and the extensive local non-Christian audiences; given that St Mary Magdalene Church is located in a neighbourhood with a large Muslim population. In consultation with non-Christian audiences, we have considered how to make the church culturally accessible and the Project fully inclusive. Comments highlighted the importance of “warmth of welcome”, and of our proposed new Heritage and Learning building has been described as a “stepping stone” to encourage access to the Church. Muslim residents have been active in the various events that help shape the project and are regular attendees at the Project’s various committees. One issue that comes across loud and clear from resident consultations is the hope that this Project will contribute towards the integration of Paddington’s various communities.

Press Release: Paddington Heritage and Community Hub hits major funding milestone …

An innovative new scheme to create a community and heritage hub in the heart of Westbourne Green in Paddington – one of the most religiously and culturally diverse wards in London – has reached a major milestone as the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) awarded the project a £3.6m grant  Read more