Press Release: Waterloo Festival 2021


May and June 2021

Waterloo Festival, an annual celebration of the arts, community and heritage hosted by St John’s Waterloo, will return for its 11th year from early May until the end of June 2021.

The theme for this year’s Festival is Respair, an old English world meaning the return of hope after a period of despair.

Waterloo Festival Director 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.

Euchar 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.”


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. Contact


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