Sunday School Stories Project
We're so close - we've successfully secured 79% of our target to transform our Sunday School Hall and deliver an engaging programme and bring an interactive archive with, for, and by the community.
You can be a part of this adventure!
Whether you love Union Chapel for its stunning space or acoustics, its rich history of social justice, its stunning Grade I and II* listed architecture or you love it for its music, participatory arts or its work with people at risk of crisis or homelessness, the Sunday School Stories Project is one of the biggest and most exciting developments in recent years and the big day when we open the transformed Sunday School Hall with its new look and new programme is getting closer...
With a rich history of social justice the Sunday School Hall was once a space used to school local children who couldn’t afford education and is one of only a few remaining Akron plan halls. Unfortunately, the Sunday School building has fallen into disrepair and without urgent intervention, it would face further dilapidation. Through this project, the unique architecture and heritage of the building will be preserved and brought back to life for the community to use.
Hidden Archive to be Revealed
Most people don’t know that we house an archive of records, books, artefacts and hidden gems from our last 200 years and local London history. For the first time, this untapped treasure trove of stories will be shared and available to all.
It tells the tales of Nonconformist Christians and their 100-year journey from persecuted minority to being part of the establishment and of Union Chapel’s unique history as one of the UK’s most respected music venues.
Sunday School Stories Project will transform the currently decaying, inaccessible collection into a restored and fully catalogued archive for the first time inviting the community to discover the everyday life at Union Chapel with insights into the lives of real local people and their ambitions for a better world.
What to expect?
The community will be able to get involved throughout this project, whether as a volunteer to help discover lost history or by taking part in a pre-gig heritage tour. The people of Islington have been integral to the history of Union Chapel and will continue to be so to bring the Sunday School back to life. Once the project is complete, it will be returned to the community as a space that everyone can enjoy
⭐️ Pre-gig heritage tours
⭐️ Heritage building training including work with lime mortar mixing, stone masonry, carpentry, repairs and maintenance for skills you can use in employment and at home
⭐️ Your Story Festival of Change made with & by for our communities including inspirational speech karaoke, digital memory bank, performance poetry, heritage food events, debates, and social leadership workshops
⭐️ Immersive musical adventures for families with Mrs H and the Singalong Band plus Highbury Opera Theatre’s young performers re-imagining scores in our archive
⭐️ And so much more
We can’t wait to work with the community and all the incredible local partner organisations that helped build on our cultural, community and social justice reputation/heritage to develop our plans to engage more of our community including young people, LGBTQIA+, struggling families, migrant and refugee groups so we can together provide more skill sharing, social justice programmes, and more
There are so many ways YOU can get involved.
Or, if you're interested in becoming a Friend of Union Chapel to help with our Grade I & Grade II* buildings, garden, and archive upkeep, learn more here.
REBUILDING A VICTORIAN STAGE (voluntary positions available)
Share your skills this January of any or all of the below help needed and let's get heritage building! Kick start a new year resolution of skill-building, giving back, or meeting like-minded people.
Union Chapel has what we think is a dismantled Victorian stage, contemporary to the 1877 chapel and currently stored in one of the booths of the Sunday School Hall.
We're recruiting volunteers to help us rebuild, document, and organise in the first of the Heritage Workshop Series of our Sunday School Stories Programme, with lunch provided.
Apply and spread the word by Wednesday 20 December by emailing [email protected]
Mon 15 Jan: Move stage parts from Sunday School booth to Upper Hall before 9:30am.
Tue 16 Jan: Rebuild stage.
Wed 17 Jan: Finish Rebuilding of stage, then dismantle it and record the process. This phase might be completed the following day if needed.
Thu 18 Jan: Return stage to SSH booth either before 9:30am or after 6:00pm.
Moving the stage parts at the beginning and end of the project.
Help rebuilding the stage.
Recording the various phases with photos, drawings, and/or words.
Managing of volunteers before and during the workshops.
Currently on the Heritage at Risk register we have been working hard to raise funds to undertake some essential repair work, plus refurbish and update the space, to bring it back into another vibrant lively community space – for meetings, activities, workshops and an up close and personal music and arts programme, a perfectly intimate space for spoken word, acoustic sets and workshops; and a welcoming space for our local communities to thrive and grow. It will be a much more welcoming space, with a new improved accessibility and a place for everyone to share, learn, thrive and simply have fun. From pre-gig heritage tours, stone masonry to immersive performances, acoustic music and our new Your Story Festival, we hope you’re excited as we are!
We are just 21% away from our target to enable us to start this incredible transformation.
This will all be made possible thanks to the incredible support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery Players, as well as National Churches Trust, Friends of Union Chapel, The Wolfson Foundation, Foyle Foundation , Garfield Weston Foundation, The Clothworkers' Foundation, Benefact Trust, The Rose Foundation, Union Chapel Members, and individual donors, with thanks to the Mayor of London.
Stuart McLeod, Director England - London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:
“We are delighted to support Union Chapel with their Sunday School Stories project. The restoration of the building for the community and creation of an amazing legacy through the archive is a fitting way to celebrate their 30th anniversary as a music venue.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund is the UK’s largest investors in heritage. Now more than ever, investing in heritage is a top priority for us, particularly as a result of the pandemic. Thanks to National Lottery players, we can invest in projects such as this where it improves people’s lives and makes communities better places to live.”