Beachmen’s church in Great Yarmouth to be strung with garlands of rubbish in art installation
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Garlands of garbage are being strung across a Norfolk church in an unusual art installation using decades worth of junk and jumble
Architects from Bulgaria have already cleared six sacks of pigeon muck from the inside of St John's Church close to the seafront in Great Yarmouth.
The former fishermens' church has been empty for some 10 years and is reckoned among the resort's most important heritage assets.
Blasted by wind and salt and having suffered at the hands of well-meaning Victorian conservationists the church was in a parlous state and close to its 'tipping point' when it was bought for £1 by the Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust at the end of last year.
Urgent early work has made it water-tight and experts are now inside sifting through decades of bric-a-brac and random items that have accumulated spanning Christmas decorations books, toys and vinyl records.
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Trust director Darren Barker had the idea of hanging the bizarre mix of items like washing on a line, framed by the abandoned building which is being saved for the town.
He said: 'The whole church was full of stuff that was so grotty it did not sell at jumble sales and it is a bizarre collection of items. We have sorted it into three piles; one for charity, one for the skip, and one for the installation.
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'It is a way of exploring waste in our throwaway society and the fact that things are made and become almost immediately obsolete. It is also a comment on preservation because all these things had previous lives.
'One of the best ways to look at a society is by looking at its rubbish, that is why archaeologists are always so interested because you can tell a lot from what has been thrown away.
'It will be an odd intervention into the religious space.'
Meanwhile bidding is underway for £500,000 to restore the building which could end up as a hub for creative industries.
While the grant funding is assembled a series of exhibitions is planned including the suspended rubbish one which will open for around six weeks from February 20.
The aim is to invite the public back in to the important church, built on dunes when there was nothing else around.
Mr Barker added: 'The Preservation Trust is especially delighted to take ownership of this church because it is one of the town's most important heritage assets and plays a significant role in the its historic fabric. The loss of it through neglect would be unthinkable.'
The trust has been in partnership with the University of Architecture in Sofia since 2012, sharing skills and expertise in a landscape where buildings are said to be similar to those in Norfolk.
The church was built as a chapel for beachmen and fishermen in 1857 on open dunes with few other buildings around apart from huts.
It is Grade II listed, its flint-faced octagonal vestry marking it out from other buildings.
Some of the pews are still marked 'reserved for seafarers, their wives and children.'
It fell out of use around 10 years ago and has been abandoned ever since.
Negotiations to take it on had been on-going for five years before the transfer for £1 to the preservation trust was completed last year.
As well as the art installation another project is planned involving prayer cushions or hassocks.
Under the project the existing hassocks will be cleaned and new ones made by volunteers embroidered to reflect their own life stories.