It’s not every day that I’m asked to draw in a tin church.
The occasion was a literary discussion hosted by my wife Jacqui Lofthouse, who runs The Writing Coach in aid of the charity War Child. The church in question was the Tin Tabernacle in Kilburn, which is perhaps the oddest building I’ve ever worked in (and I’ve worked in some very odd buildings).
Built in the 19th Century out of corrugated tin, the tabernacle was taken on by the Sea Cadets as a training centre. They converted its interior into the deck of a warship, complete with rowboats and a gun emplacement. A further level of surrealism was added when the church somehow inherited parts of the set of the 1960s film Becket, so there is now a pretend Medieval chapel on the deck of the pretend warship.
All of this eccentric history gave me a wonderful backdrop for my pictures. The theme of the evening was “Fragile Borders, Fragile Bodies”, and the speakers discussed the role of poetry and fiction in war zones. To have the discussion take place in front of a Second World war gun emplacement gave an ominous note to the evening, which I was keen to capture. The rowing boat behind the speakers also took on a poignant significance when they talked about families fleeing conflict.
When I’m asked to record an event like this, it’s very satisfying to have such evocative visual resources to draw on. I was fortunate to have also been invited to Salisbury Cathedral in the same month, to capture a remembrance and thanksgiving service for the NHS. I love Gothic architecture, and used it in my drawings to suggest the sense of occasion.