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Barbara Basini: Union Chapel Heritage Workshop

Posted on 13 April 2021

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Barbara Basini is Head of Conservation and Building Projects at Union Chapel, and worked in collaboration with The Glass-House team to help shape and deliver the one-day heritage workshop with Canonbury Primary School at the end of February.

Thanks to a Historic England Emergency grant, Union Chapel had the opportunity to develop a programme of community-led activities to promote our non-conformist heritage to a wider and more diverse audience and make the participant become part of our heritage by experiencing it. We were very excited and pleased when The Glass-House Community Led Design accepted to work in partnership with Union Chapel and support us with the development and delivery of our heritage workshop directed at young children.

The project was also supported by Islington Council, who identified Canonbury School as the best fit for this project given its proximity to the building. The school’s headteacher, Patrick Mildren, embraced it and we couldn’t have found a more supportive and collaborative participant. Due to Covid restrictions the delivery of the project had to change from a workshop within the chapel building to a digital workshop, directed to year 5 and 6 children who were attending school during the lockdown. “Flexibility” has definitely been a key element throughout the process. 

The Glass-House’s delivery and support before, during and after the workshop has been fantastic, the school’s enthusiasm, support and facilities have been essential for the success of what was for us a completely new experience and way to promote our heritage.

Compilation of images for our Union Chapel workshop with Canonbury Primary School. Image Credits: Canonbury Primary School

It has been a fascinating and very exciting journey and the most rewarding aspect of the project has been the enthusiasm with which the school has embraced it, using a combination of technology and traditional techniques masterly prepared by The Glass-House and the fantastic work and feedback produced by the students, which went far beyond our expectations. One student wrote in the prompt card that stained glass “makes me be super overjoyed”. A testimony of the direct connection of heritage and well-being for all age groups.

An extract for one of the worksheets from the day, filled out by a student participant.

We hope this is just the beginning of this journey where young people embrace our heritage, enjoy it, use it and in doing so they feel empowered and enriched and will help to preserve it for future generations.

Compilation of images for our Union Chapel workshop with Canonbury Primary School. Image Credits: Canonbury Primary School

What Next?

COVID-19 restrictions permitting, Union Chapel is planning to host an exhibition in the summer to showcase all the work done by the children, which will soon also be available on Union Chapel’s website. We are also aiming to adapt this workshop so that it can be offered to other schools either virtually or on site once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

An image of the students workshop creations, from stained glass window designs to a model of the street Union Chapel sits within. Image Credits: Canonbury Primary School

This resource can be grown by the Union Chapel team, with stories and other elements being woven in over time as their workshop narrative develops, but we will also explore how it could be adapted to fit and showcase other heritage buildings. We are really excited about the future possibilities of this resource.

The story continues….

If you want to read more about our workshop with Union Chapel, you can find our blog with a more detailed overview of the programme here, or dive into our Innovating practice resource here. Our summary publication documenting the process and outcomes of the workshop can be found here.