St Margaret's, Barking


St Margaret's and the Arts

St Margaret's has a rich history of involvement in the arts. For the past 150 years the church has had its own choir which is now affiliated to the Royal School of Church Music and is led by our Director of Music, Iain Anderson (see Choir for more information). In the past the church has also run Dramatic Clubs and organised music recitals (see Past Life-Present Mission 2 for more details).

Over the years a range of visual art has been introduced into the church to form the eclectic mix that those who know this church love. In the Curfew Tower Chapel there is a worn stone Rood showing Christ crucified watched by his mother and St John. On each side of the chancel arch in the Church are beams showing part of a Doom painting.

The chancel altar was produced by the architect Charles Winmill to a design by Philip Webb. Both were significant figures in the Arts and Crafts movement, as was George Jack (of the William Morris Company) who designed the Fisherman's windows and carved the wooden statuettes that adorn the screen in the Youth Chapel. An exhibition of George Jack's work was held at the William Morris Gallery in Waltham Forest from 29th April - 29th July 2006 and included several pieces of Jack's work on loan from St Margaret's Barking.

In 2005 St Margaret's had a year in the Arts with a wide range of Arts-based activities happening throughout the year. For more information click here. Since 2005 we have had an ongoing programme of occasional concerts and exhibitions which have included: Love & Light, Nigerian world music star Jide Chord, Organist and Director of Music Iain Anderson, South African concert pianist Manuel Villet, RE:Generation, St Margaret's School Choir, Watoto Children's Choir from Uganda, the oboe and harpsichord duo of Althea Ifeka and Katherine May and Voxette, the Youth Choir from our link parish of Kristinehamn in Sweden. For concert photos click here.

St Margaret's Church by George Emmerson

In December 2004 St Margaret's was given it's own Christmas present by local artist George Emmerson.

In the summer of 1992 George first began to paint the church, the abbey and their grounds and now he has presented the church with a book of these paintings. The book is filled with watercolours set in intricately painted borders and complemented by historical information and personal reflections. It is a completely unique gift which draws its inspiration from the illuminated manuscripts formerly produced in monastries.

George says that the book "is a tribute to the clergy and the many people who do voluntary work to keep the church alive and prosperous" and is his way of saying thanks for the kindness and help shown to him.

The book and a painting of the Curfew Tower, also a gift from George, can be viewed in the display cabinet by the North door. All of us who are part of St Margaret's would like to record our thanks to George Emmerson for this very generous gift.

Love & Light

In February 2005 the Church become the centrepiece of a public art performance entitled Love & Light. Visual jockeys and digital artists SDNA filmed and digitally animated both members of the congregation and the surrounding flora and wildlife, setting them within delicate moving imagery before projecting them onto the windows of the church. People arriving at the churchyard's gatehouse (the Curfew Tower) were reminded of the churchyard's importance as a green space at the heart of a concrete jungle as they were greeted by the sight of the churchyard's squirrels filling the window of the Curfew Tower's chapel.

Moving through the Tower into the churchyard, the church itself was a blaze of light and colour, filled with flowers and wildlife and people. Its stained glass, including Jesus among the elders, the Last Supper, the crucifixion and the ascension, was all brightly lit and clearly visible in all its delicate colours. Alongside, projected onto the clear windows of the church, were moving images of the local body of Christ at St Margaret's - dancing mums, waving ladies, an eight piece dance group, the verger and curate racing each other up the Church Tower, an imaginary teenage rock band, and a number of other spinning, walking, waving, smiling members of the congregation. This piece, rightly entitled Abbey Happy, was the church at play.

Studding this celebration of the congregation were reminders of Barking's past which drew on memorials contained within the church. Captain Cook's ship, The Endeavour, sailed again next to the stained glass window commemorating Barking's fishing heritage. This window then provided motifs of sea horses, shells and water that featured in several other projections. The whole was a joyful celebration, not just of St Margaret's special history, but also of its lively and diverse present. In it the church was truly seen as a place of love, light and laughter.

For photos from Love & Light click here, for the plugfish website click here, and for more information click here.

Early in the morning

A newly commissioned painting for the Youth Chapel of St Margaret's Church was unveiled by the artist, Alan Stewart, on Wednesday 16th March 2005 and dedicated by the Bishop of Barking on Sunday 20th March.

Entitled 'Early in the Morning', the painting depicts Jesus cooking breakfast for his disciples by Lake Galilee after his resurrection, as told in John's Gospel chapter 21. Stewart has painted a black Christ surrounded by disciples of every ethnic origin to reflect the diverse congregation that currently worships at St Margaret's. Through its lakeside setting the pastel painting also links to the stained glass window in the Youth Chapel commemorating the fishing industry in Barking.

Jonathan Evens says: "We wanted an image in the Church that would reflect the diversity of our multi-cultural congregation where over 30 languages are currently spoken. Alan Stewart has made a wonderful response to that wish. In the painting Christ is surrounded by people of every race, colour and tongue and looks out at each one of us inviting all people to join him for the meal he has prepared. We are very grateful to the family of Patricia Osbourne, whose gift has made this painting possible."

The painting has been given by Mrs Joyce Osbourne in memory of her daughter, Patricia. Patricia Osbourne was a keen ballroom dancer, spent her working life in the jewellery and haberdashery trades locally and, through her own needlework skills, raised much money for charity. Patricia's twin sister, Marion, will attend the dedication of the painting on Sunday 20th March.

Alan Stewart is a Church of England minister and a fine artist. Following his BA (Hons) in Fashion Design & Textiles at the Central St Martins School of Art, Alan has produced work in a variety of media (including charcoal, collage, pastel and emulsion) and exhibited at London School of Theology, London Institute of Contemporary Christianity (LICC) and Intermission@St Saviours. Alan is currently the curate at St John the Evangelist, Great Stanmore.

Jesus blessing the children

Jesus blessing the children is an icon by the Norwegian artist Kjellaug Nordsjö, who is widely considered to be the finest contemporary icon painter in Scandanavia. The icon was given to St Margaret's by our link parish of Kristinehamn in Sweden in 2005 and can be seen in the Youth Chapel. Click here to see a photo of the icon and the artist.


When Michael Cousin was commissioned by the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham, as part of their Artscape project, to create an artwork based on changes to the urban landscape in Barking & Dagenham, he thought he would be focussing on the dangers and stresses of urban life. Instead, as he interviewed local people, he found himself impressed by a commonality of experience between generations.

The Memento exhibition featured places and personal events, from days past, as recorded by the community in their personal photo albums, alongside images of how those places and people are now. These photographs document physical changes as Michael located the original sites of old photographs of the area as closely as possible and took a contemporary still to set alongside the original. Combining the two layers shows the passage of time and the, often, radical changes it has made. In these photos time has swept away architecture that once would have seemed monolithic. In these photos everything is different, nothing is untouched by change.

Michael's film, Re:Generation, is a recording of personal anecdotes, memories and views on change, past and present with a view to reflecting on all our futures in a borough currently undergoing large scale redevelopment and change. It is here, in people’s stories, hopes, fears and concern that MIchael found continuity and commonality across the generations. As we view past images from local people’s lives we also hear their stories. The images come from another time and place but the stories could be contemporary as they speak of community, relationships, children, the future, happiness, death and suffering.

Anthony Shapland, the Director and Curator of g39 in Cardiff, has said of Cousin that, “he successfully combines the naïvety of a child seeing the world afresh with a grown-up, stubborn belief that things could be different. He is intent on … willing the viewer to look at something with new eyes, to experience reality refreshed.” In this exhibition Michael created a space for the contemplation of change.

Michael's text for the project came from Ecclesiastes – ‘there is nothing new under the sun’. Although change is inevitable and unstoppable human concerns transcend generations and the radical changes that regeneration brings. At the heart of his project is a reminder and affirmation of the similarities between generations rather than a distancing through the differences. As Michael says, “our connections with real people about real things shouldn't be ignored or forgotten in our rush to get wherever it is we're supposed to be going. And that's the point, to reconnect with another generation before it's too late again, to realize that we are one and the same.”

It was appropriate that both film and photos were on show at St Margaret’s as the church featured in many of the photos and several members of the congregation had contributed their stories and photos to the film. Michael's project refreshes our memory of our history, celebrates our local community, contributes towards the future regeneration of our town centre, and creates a space for seeing the world, reality and our faith afresh. For all these reasons we were very pleased to be able to host this exhibition.The film and exhibition were shown at St Margaret's from 14th - 21st January 2006. More information can be found by clicking here.

Images of God

Our curate, Jonathan Evens, has painted a series of four oils depicting images of God as Father, Mother, Wisdom and as Spirit. In each, light shines from the face of the 'God' figure and we are depicted as the children in a close, intimate, loving parent/child relationship. The paintings are hung in 'The Ark' in the the St Margaret's Centre but can also be viewed by clicking here.

Early in the morning

Paintings - George Emmerson

George Jack

Photos - George Jack

Love & Light


Our year in the Arts

Re:Generation & Memento

Images of God