It's five years ago this week since a church secured the funding to enable it to open up and 'celebrate and secure our diverse, creative community'

A church has secured a grant to transform its ancient building into a community centre for music, arts and culture.

St Mary’s Church in Church End, Walthamstow will receive a National Lottery grant of £1.67m.

The initial phase of the project entitled ‘A Creative Church for a Creative Community’ will see the roof and walls repaired. An extension will also be built to provide a new entrance, offices, toilets and a kitchen.

The building of the new centre will be the first phase in a wider and separately funded project that will see several underutilised church buildings near St Mary’s renovated.

Revd Vanessa Conant, Rector of St Mary’s Church and the Parish of Walthamstow, said: “Walthamstow is a wonderful and exciting community to live in and it deserves non-commercial spaces which are open to all - spaces of reflection and rejuvenation.

“My hope is that when people hear the words, ‘St Mary’s Walthamstow’, they will think of a welcoming Christian community where beautiful, creative, inspiring and unexpected things happen.

“Securing the support of the National Lottery means we can really open up our church building during the week to celebrate and serve our diverse, creative community.”

A survey commissioned by St Mary’s as part of the consultation before applying for the grant found that 95 per cent of people living in the area agreed that Walthamstow needed more live music venues.

The Grade II listed building dates back to the 12th century and is the meeting place for Walthamstow’s longest standing Christian community.

The Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, said he “applauds” the creativity of the leaders at St Mary’s who were successful in their grant application.

He said: “In every generation the church needs to look again at its buildings to see how they can best serve the purpose of the church to be a place of gathering and service for the local community.

“This exciting redevelopment and re-ordering of St Mary’s Walthamstow will enable it to serve its local community more effectively, especially as a centre for arts and music.”

St Mary’s has been working with two music promoters on a series of world and folk music events which turn the ancient church into the ‘Saint Mary’s Music Hall’. Hundreds of people have attended the events, which showcase bands such as Seckou Keita, She’Koyokh and acclaimed British folk singer Martha Tilston.

Saima Mahmud, councillor for the Hoe Street ward which St Mary’s lies in, said: “I am absolutely delighted to hear St Mary's Church has been successful in its bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. I have never seen the church as busy as it is now.

“The church has already demonstrated its unwavering determination to find new and creative ways to reach out to people from all different walks of life.”