The Union Chapel in Highbury and Islington is a stunning building. It can hold 900 people and when I wandered around it last week I could sense the inspiration that must have been felt by those attending in the church’s heyday. 900 people singing hymns with the perfect acoustics the building provides must have been quite an experience.
Nowadays the congregation is active and growing but small, and has handed over the management of the building to the Union Chapel Project – a charity. . They maintain the building and run a series of very successful gigs throughout the year. In fact in 2012 they were named the best venue in London by Time Out and this year named London’s favourite music venue at the Mayor’s London Music Awards.
But the church that is more than a church is also a music venue that is more than a music venue! The Margins project is based at Union Chapel and work to provide a range of vital support services to people facing homelessness, crisis and isolation in the local community and beyond.
The London Housing Foundation has recently agreed to fund the 3rd and 4th stages of the unique Margins Kitchen Training Project. This takes homeless people and offers them experience and training in catering. It is unique in two ways: firstly the business is real, providing the catering for all the gigs at the Chapel over the year. If the service doesn’t work, people don’t get fed and money is lost. Second, all participants get paid a real wage. This is not a voluntary job or a placement, it is a real job. This means that when the programme ends trainees have genuine experience and have learnt not only how to work in a kitchen, but also how to successfully have a job. As a result about 80% of the first two groups have now gone on to permanent work.
So the inspiration continues…
Over the next few months we will be following the latest trainees and posting regularly here about what they are doing and how they are getting on.
If you would like to be involved or find out more, look at the Margins website here