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by sarahb last modified 14/05/2018 12:13 PM

A million bricks of love

by sarahb last modified 14/05/2018 12:13 PM
A million bricks of love

Visual arts is an important part of the activity at x-church

x-church in Gainsborough

As part of our Heart & Soul Tuesday talk series, we are exploring the successes and failures of reusing historic buildings.  We recently invited Marcus Hammond,curator of x-church- a community space in Gainsborough, like no other, to come and share its story.

We have asked our Project Intern, Tess Sieling, to share her notes on the Heart & Soul talks.

Over to Tess.

On the evening of Tuesday 17th April I went to Trinity to listen to Marcus Hammond speaking about his project called x-church in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.

Hammond bought a church building in 2006 and the night before he received the keys, the window got bricked. Therefore the first few days of his ownership were spent fixing the windows, and during this time he left the doors open. Children and young people walked right in and started playing in the space. This has lasted 12 years so far. ‘Now’, he said, ‘the building is almost incidental’.

"Over a million bricks hold together the love and forward-thinking acceptance of x-church"

It was interesting to learn that in the same way as the children wandering in, a lot of x-church’s journey happened almost accidentally: the building was described by someone as built in a slum-gothic way, and as well as enjoying the playful amalgamation of two words, Hammond and what was becoming a small team of volunteers decided it would be the name of a youth project.

x-church is host to many successful visual art installations

They created a small dome structure for Slumgothic within the huge church space in which young people’s music and band practice can be contained. Immediately Hammond was building relationships with young people with total acceptance of who they are as individuals. Over time these relationships led to so much mutual respect that Marcus handed out keys to the front door. This helped with practical things such as not having to be there to unlock, but also gives the young people a sense of ownership of the building. With a mixture of surprise and pride, Hammond said, ‘So far, nothing bad has happened.’

Marcus’s view is that physically building a place is hard but assembling the people is harder. The bare-brick architecture has become x-church’s strength and therefore not much has been added to make it more than a vast empty space. The x-church team like it when someone comes in and has a grand plan for an exhibition, show or event to hold there, and x-church is welcoming to almost all ideas. In a community like Gainsborough there is not an active interest in art or culture but x- church’s practice of ‘inconveniencing people with art’ proves that if you take it to the people they will engage.

From blocking out all the windows with card in order to turn x-church into a camera obscura to holding 24 hours of drumming for Syria, lots of events and exhibitions have taken place at x-church, some instigated by the young people and some by external artists. ‘Increasingly at x-church', according to Marcus, 'people don’t have a fear of making a fool of themselves.’ I agree wholeheartedly that there is a lot to be said for creating a space in which young people can take risks. In a time when young people are called upon to be available at all times via phones, it is increasingly important to allow freedom in other parts of their lives to benefit their wellbeing and independence.

Through loads of conversations and shared experiences, the lives of individuals and the Slumgothic community has been immeasurably touched. From what I heard at the talk, x-church is an inspiring example of what could be happening to benefit young people all over the world. Over a million bricks hold together the love and forward-thinking acceptance of x-church, but Marcus is not precious about what happens to the physical building, instead it is the people that matter. 'If the building collapsed we could just relocate somewhere else. Even to a field.'

Read more Tess' Tuesday Notes  here.



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