The recently formed Friends of St Gabriel’s will be hosting an eco-festival at the Aldersbrook church this month. It’s all part of future-proofing the venue, explains Georgina Brewis and Jane Skelding
St Gabriel’s Church has been at the heart of the Aldersbrook community for over a hundred years. The church, its hall and gardens are community assets that serve thousands of local people each year by providing spaces for an enormous range of recreational, social and educational activities.
The hall is currently home to a week-day morning nursery school, supports a programme of clubs and classes – from Pilates to football, Cubs and Scouts to knit and natter – and has hosted many generations of Aldersbrook birthday parties. However, the maintenance and upkeep of the ageing estate is extensive, costly and time-consuming. In the long term, St Gabriel’s would like to become greener and more sustainable by upgrading the hall’s facilities, including fitting solar panels and creating new meeting spaces, and is currently seeking planning approval for these works from Redbridge Council.
Since the summer of 2021, a small group of people – mostly non-churchgoers who live in Aldersbrook – have been working with Father Martyn Hawkes to form the Friends of St Gabriel’s on the lines of similar secular support groups elsewhere. The group exists to secure the long-term future of the church and its hall for everyone, regardless of religious faith. The Friends officially launched last September, and held a successful Christmas decoration event with Wanstead florist Daisy in December. Through fundraising events and by signing up regular supporters, we have so far raised over £3,500 to fund essential works to the hall, which will start this spring.
Our next big event is an eco-festival on Saturday 12 March (sponsored by The Stow Brothers). In celebration of protecting our local environment, there will be stalls covering all sorts of making, doing and repairing. There will be demonstrations and advice from experts on bike repairs, clothes alterations and ceramic repairs, as well as beer brewing. For anyone looking for new mindful activities, we will have local community groups ready to help you get started on pottery, knitting and horticulture. A member of the Redbridge Cycling Campaign will be on hand with local cycling tips and there will be a chance to view the planning application. Live entertainment will include a local Irish folk group. And there will be eco-friendly crafts for children and, of course, plenty of refreshments.
The Friends of St Gabriel’s want to ensure the church and its hall are still here in another hundred years. So, the group is open to everyone who values the presence of St Gabriel’s as a community asset and we welcome supporters from any religious background and people of no faith at all.
The Aldersbrook Eco-Festival will take place at St Gabriel’s Church, Aldersbrook Road, on 12 March from 12 noon to 3pm (entry: £1; children: free). For more information on the Friends of St Gabriel’s , visit wnstd.com/fosg