In September 2013 I asked my Twitter followers whether anyone knew of any space for a cartoonist to work. I had this reply, among others:
@davewalker Might know of a few options in Leigh/Southend…
— Juliet Kilpin (@JulietKilpin) September 6, 2013
A few days later I met Juliet and went to see a room at New Road Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, conveniently located fifteen minutes (plus a bit of walking) down the railway line from where I live. A bit of church vestry conversion was undertaken, and I started working in a studio at what was to become known as The Fishermen’s Chapel.
I became more involved, becoming part of a steering group whose role was to see the building develop as an arts venue at the same time as being an active church. We now have all manner of events taking place: concerts, a monthly gospel service, choir rehearsals, art displays, yarnbombing, craft fairs, and family lantern-making events, to name a few. I’ve really enjoyed working with this small team of really very gifted people. When there’s not many of you it feels as if your contribution can make a definite difference. (If you’re local and reading this: do join us!)
Being small in number makes it easier to get to know everyone, and I’ve felt incredibly welcomed. I like the model of church: rather than running huge numbers of activities ourselves and trying to persuade people to come along, we’ve invited the community into the building to do whatever it is they’d like to do. It seems to work.
In all these goings-on I’ve never actually quite got around to joining what is now my church. So I’m becoming a member on Sunday morning. I hadn’t really foreseen myself becoming a part of the Methodist Church it must be said, but this is the place that I’ve felt at home, so here I am.
Do come along if you’re within reach and don’t have to be somewhere else. The service is at 11. It will be a fairly standard Methodist service, with no bells, smells or whistles. The membership bit is a few lines of liturgy and (apparently) some shaking of hands. I’ll say a few words at some point and there will be coffee and quite possibly cake afterwards. You’d be most welcome.
A note about accessibility: the Chapel is upstairs, built into the cliff. If you’d like to come along but this is a problem for you (the stairs bit) please contact me.