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Kanye West and Beyonce designer Es Devlin to work on £5million St John at Hackney church restoration

PUBLISHED: 10:09 05 February 2018 | UPDATED: 14:06 05 February 2018

St John at Hackney, right, will be redesigned by Es Devlin - the visual artist behind the 2012 Olympic closing ceremony, left. Pictures: Fin Fahey/Flickr/Creative Commons (licence CC BY-SA 2.0) and PA

St John at Hackney, right, will be redesigned by Es Devlin - the visual artist behind the 2012 Olympic closing ceremony, left. Pictures: Fin Fahey/Flickr/Creative Commons (licence CC BY-SA 2.0) and PA

Archant

Top names in the world of architecture and design have been brought in as part of a £5million restoration of the iconic St John at Hackney church.

The St John at Hackney building, pictured during a performance by Botswanan choir the Sedibeng Choral Society, is in need of serious repair. Picture: Archant The St John at Hackney building, pictured during a performance by Botswanan choir the Sedibeng Choral Society, is in need of serious repair. Picture: Archant

The church has been granted £1.84m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help pay for the project, which will completely renovate the 226-year-old building – which has seen better days – and its gardens.

Internationally-renowned designer John Pawson, whose work includes the Design Museum, is on board. So too is visual artist Es Devlin OBE, known for her work with Beyonce, Kanye West and the Pet Shop Boys, and for designing the closing ceremony of the London Olympics.

Stage and performance designer Es Devlin, pictured in 2017 at the V&A. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire Stage and performance designer Es Devlin, pictured in 2017 at the V&A. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

The architects will be RIBA Award-winning ecclesiastical specialists Thomas Ford & Partners.

Revd Al Gordon, rector of Hackney, told the Gazette he recently performed a service with water dripping on his head throughout and thanked the HLF, saying without the lottery grant the work could not happen.

Es Devlin designed the London 2012 closing ceremony (pictured) - and will now lead a revamp of St John at Hackney Church. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Archive Es Devlin designed the London 2012 closing ceremony (pictured) - and will now lead a revamp of St John at Hackney Church. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Archive

“For over 700 years, the church has served as a beacon of hope at the heart of Hackney,” he added. “This award will not only increase accessibility to our wonderful story, but will enable future generations to play their part in shaping Hackney’s bright future.”

Revd Gordon said his vision was to open up the church and its gardens to the community, adding there were plans afoot for an orchard, beehives, a salad and herb garden and a sensory garden.

Es Devlin designed the London 2012 closing ceremony - and will now lead a revamp of St John at Hackney Church. Pictured, Fatboy Slim performing during the ceremony. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Archive Es Devlin designed the London 2012 closing ceremony - and will now lead a revamp of St John at Hackney Church. Pictured, Fatboy Slim performing during the ceremony. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Archive

It already runs the Lighthouse project, which sees about 100 homeless and vulnerable people cared for each week with a lunch club – catered for by Sam and Sam Clark of top Hackney Road restaurant Morito – as well as a food bank, a debt advice service and the Hackney Winter Night Shelter.

Revd Gordon approached Ms Devlin for the project after seeing her talk about her work on a Netflix documentary and luckily she jumped at the chance to be involved.

Lunch club

Speaking about the Tuesday lunch club, Revd Al Gordon told the Gazette: “The people are mostly on the streets. We give them the best food we can find, the best cutlery. It’s about giving people dignity.

“We met Sam and Sam Clark along the way. They are highly successful chefs who run one of the best restaurants in London but they wanted to help. We opened it in October with 20 guests and by Christmas we had 80. We want it to feel like a really nice restaurant.”

“We’re only going to do this once so it has to be special,” he added, “If someone has thought carefully about a space you walk into, you feel valued. I’m really passionate about this. With all the pressures of social change and gentrification we want to really be a presence in the community.

The Grade II* listed church was built in 1792, replacing the earlier medieval building from 1275. The restoration work is expected to start later this year and take 18 months.

It will also allow the venue to host more gigs, having already made a name for itself by drawing artists such as Coldplay, Florence and the Machine, Robbie Williams, Emeli Sande and Ed Sheeran.

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