WISBECH St Peter’s church has beaten hundreds of other churches and even cathedrals to win a £100,000 grant for its artist in residence project.
And Father Paul West believes the town deserves every penny and could even become a model for other churches to follow in the future.
A formal announcement of the £100,000 award by the National Church Council was made this week, and Father Paul is already planning how the money will best be spent in continuing to promote the project started last year at St Peter’s Lodge.
The aim is to attract a diverse number of artists from across the country as well as worldwide to spend up to a fortnight in Wisbech, staying at the specially created apartment at the Lodge, to work with children from all the town’s schools.
Father Paul believes St Peter’s beat up to 800 other applications from churches in England because of the project’s unique approach to promoting art and spirituality to young people.
The funding which is given under the umbrella heading of ‘Developing Church Growth in Deprived Areas’ was awarded to 18 projects. Father Paul said the Archbishops’ Council was looking for creative ways of working in deprived areas, not only to bring people back into churches but also trying to encourage communities and to bring life and joy into places where it might be lacking.
“I haven’t been here long, but I have fallen in love with Wisbech. I really love the place and I hope the artist in residence scheme can help local people to fall back in love with their town, to look at it with a fresh perspective through the use of art and story-telling,” said Father Paul.
“We also hope to develop our story-telling festival with children connecting with the rich social justice heritage of this town and her famous children Octavia Hill and Thomas and John Clarkson,” he added.
And he said the Church of England will be following the progress of the Wisbech project with the hope of employing it as a model to help other deprived areas.
“I think the Church of England is looking at Wisbech to see what is possible and for us to do very creative work here bringing arts and spirituality to the community and to schools and lifting aspiration as well as increasing the appreciation of art. They are using Wisbech as a real laboratory for creative ministry using arts to bring joy and lift the hopes and spirits of the people.”
Father Paul concluded: “This is a fantastic opportunity. We were up against cathedrals that have a lot more resources than us, but the Church of England recognised what we are trying to achieve here and this funding is a huge vote of confidence in the church in Wisbech.”