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Press Release: Waterloo Festival 2021 (26th April)


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 27th of June 2021.

The theme for this year’s Festival is Respair, an old English word 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.”

'Respair', designed by local gallery Hart Club

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.”

Spotlight Chamber Series returns for Waterloo Festival

Headlining our music events are two series: one led by the Inner Vision Orchestra, Britain’s leading ensemble of blind musicians, and the Spotlight Chamber Series, featuring world-famous musicians such as Angela Hewitt, Steven Isserlis, Pavel Kolesnikov and the Doric Quartet. Inner Vision are irresistibly uplifting and play an eclectic mix of classical and folk. Spotlight presents big name, world-class musicians in the relaxed and friendly setting of St John’s - and local residents are entitled to discounts. There will also be an afternoon of Jazz and Blues led by Southwark’s Unity Music Arts Team in the churchyard, the Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra are returning, record label and events producer Nonclassical, known for presenting the best new classical, experimental and electronic music, will bring a wonderful piece with voices and electronics to reverberate around St John’s, and Morley College’s finest pop and rock groups will play at the Festival’s closing garden party.

On the visual arts front, The London Group, an internationally renowned artists’ collective founded in 1913, are returning with a sculpture exhibition in the churchyard and a digital art show in the Old Crypt. Down the road, Festival partners Morley College are staging exhibitions reflecting on the legacy of the Festival of Britain and its echoes for today as we emerge from the pandemic. An audio tour of the Festival of Britain’s South Bank site, narrated by 20th century experts Alan Powers and Elain Harwood, will be available as a podcast from 3rd May, 70 years to the day since the launch of those national celebrations.

The Inner Vision Orchestra

In partnership with the Insiders/Outsiders Festival and Art+Christianity, there will be a one-day conference shedding light on the many Jewish refugee artists who fled Nazi Europe to work in Britain and who contributed so much to public art and culture - including Hans Feibusch whose murals at St John’s are the subject of a campaign to raise funds for their urgent conservation. Edmund de Waal will introduce the day with a video message and an evening session will include BBC Antiques Roadshow specialist Marc Allum talking about his passion for Feibusch with Feibusch’s grandson.

Other events will involve Coin Street’s Young Leaders, Waterloo Community Theatre and local choirs.

Looking to the future, Euchar Gravina said: “When St John’s re-opens in Spring 2022, after its major restoration, we shall be running a year-round arts and creative programme, in addition to the Festival. There will be events for everyone including collaborative projects with the young and homeless people whom we are getting to know through St John’s new Waterloo Well programme of employment training, therapeutic arts, gardening and youth projects.

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.”


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