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Art at St John’s Church, Waterloo

Walking home via Waterloo last night, I spotted some intriguing posters on the railings outside St John’s Church. As the former home of Southwark Mosaics (now the London School of Mosaic) there are a number of mosaics dotted around the churchyard, so the church clearly supports and encourages creativity. It turns out it’s currently the home of the Waterloo Festival.

Under the title ‘Respair’ – the return of hope after a period of despair – the festival focusses on celebrating a brighter future as we come out of lockdown and face a post-pandemic world. These posters were produced by members of a community art project at Coin Street in response to the theme.

As a London transport geek and general map lover, I always love a twist on the London tube map so this one jumped out at me.

I particularly love the ‘sadness to joy’ line. The ‘isolation to togetherness’ line in place of the circle line – which in my opinion is one of the most unreliable of tube lines, frequently out of service on the weekends – is the perfect analogy for what it’s been like with the changing of restrictions affecting when we have and haven’t been able to see others, feeling like we’re going round in circles.

In the churchyard itself, 31 artists have contributed to an outdoor exhibition responding to the theme ‘Britain ‘21 – coming up for air’, curated by The London Group. We only took a brief look so I didn’t discover all the artworks, but some of them really stood out to me – especially ‘Clarity of Desire – Welcome The Unwelcome‘ hanging from a tree near the entrance to the churchyard. I’ll have to try and get back to see more of the sculptures and installations.

The festival also celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Festival of Britain in 1951, which primarily took place on the South Bank with the Royal Festival Hall built for the occasion. St John’s Church was restored following bomb damage to become the official Festival Church.

This year’s Waterloo Festival runs until 27 June, after which the church will close for major renovation for the first time since 1951. Having been in the church basement for choir rehearsals before lockdown, I can confirm it could do with some TLC.

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