St John’s, the church on the roundabout at Waterloo, is committed to being here for everyone, responding to need and providing hope and inspiration in the midst of this busy city.
There has been music at St John’s since we first opened in 1824. When we were rebuilt as the church of the Festival of Britain in 1951, the newly restored nave was adorned with murals by German Jewish refugee artist Hans Feibusch and served as host to many choirs who travelled from across the country to perform in the Festival.
Today, we host a year-round programme of concerts and events. We run the annual Waterloo Festival of arts, heritage and community and are home to one of the best youth orchestras in the world, Southbank Sinfonia.
Increasingly, our focus is on bringing artists and arts organisations together with local people to co-produce projects that reflect our diverse neighbourhood. The creative process strengthens the bonds of our community and our beautiful historic church, our churchyard garden and this website serve as a platform for the rich and varied work that results.
Our Artistic Director is Euchar Gravina, a composer and music director from Malta based in London. If you have ideas for creative collaborations or future cultural events at St John’s, please contact Euchar here. To keep in touch with St Johns, sign up for our newsletter here.
WATERLOO FESTIVAL 2021: RESPAIR
The theme for this year’s Festival is Respair, an old English word meaning the return of hope after a period of despair.
Euchar Gravina explained: “Respair fell out of use many centuries ago but we’ve chosen it as the title of Waterloo Festival 2021 because during May and June, we’re going to be celebrating the brighter future that Covid vaccines herald and the rebirth of real-life creativity and shared experience.”
Waterloo Festival will also celebrate the 70th anniversary of the 1951 Festival of Britain, a “return of hope” for which St John’s, damaged by war-time bombing, was restored to become the official Festival Church.
Gravina continued: “Now, as then, out of a period of crisis and loss comes a fresh determination to make the world a better place. In collaboration with our many arts and community partners across London and the South Bank, we’ll be championing the renewed focus on equality, inclusion and climate change that has emerged during the pandemic.”
Morley College, a longstanding Festival partner, is inviting students to produce work inspired by the Festival of Britain for exhibition at various venues across the South Banks and Waterloo. The London Group, a well-known artists’ collective established in 1913 and another past collaborator, will this year take Respair as the theme for digital and sculpture exhibitions in the crypt and garden at St John’s.
On 16th June, a one-day conference entitled “A Jewish Jesus: Art and Faith in the Shadow of World War II” will look at the contribution of refugee artists to British culture in the post-war era. (Register for the conference here.)
More details of all events will be announced over the coming weeks as it becomes clear when and how lockdown restrictions will be lifted.
Revd Canon Giles Goddard, Vicar of St John’s Waterloo and Chair of Waterloo Festival, said: “It is our sincere hope that this year’s Waterloo Festival will provide the opportunities we’re all longing for to gather in person. Whether as an artist, a collaborator, a neighbour or visitor, we look forward to welcoming you. Join us and celebrate the dawn of a new era of hope and a renewed spirit of community.”
USE ST JOHN’S AS YOUR BLANK CANVAS
At the end of June, St John’s will close for a major restoration. Waterloo Festival 2021 will be one last celebratory fling before it disappears under cladding until re-opening in May 2022, ready to serve the community for centuries ahead. If any artists, arts, community or heritage groups would like to use St John’s as the backdrop to an event or as a blank canvas for big ideas during this year’s Festival, the Director would be delighted to hear from you.
Drawing of the garden at St John's Waterloo by David Bassadone
Featuring La La Land by Peter Avery as it appeared in Nothing Endures But Change:
An outdoors sculpture exhibition curated by Susan Haire, Waterloo Festival 2018