St George’s Parish Church Beckenham www.stgeorgesbeckenham.co.uk
St George’s Church is the parish church of Beckenham, Kent. The current church is Victorian but there has been a church on the site for one thousand years or more; its reputedly 13th Century lych gate is said to be the oldest in the country.
The Arts at St George’s
The Arts at St George’s has evolved from St. George’s Arts Festival formulated and begun in 1992 by the then rector of St George’s Canon Derek Carpenter. The aim then was to put on an annual Arts Festival for the community and Canon Carpenter, Ken Maliphant with his contacts in the world of entertainment and Nigel Groome (then Director of Music) were the prime movers in the enterprise supported by a small number of other key players from the congregation and beyond including Jenny Froude and Alan Saunders.
It was recognised that the church’s musical tradition, its fine reputation for its music, together with its standing as a major parish church – and its position at the heart of the Beckenham community, put St. George’s in a unique position to showcase the arts (being God-given) through music and drama by incorporating the abilities of professional performers and the undoubted talents of very many within the local community.
The architecture of the building, whose windows also are an illustration of the very best in traditional and contemporary art, together with what Canon Carpenter has often referred to as its ‘soaring space’, also lent itself to staging events which would attract many into the audience and, in that way, might help those who were making a tentative step to faith. The 2 or 3-day Arts and Crafts’ Exhibition was also a regular and welcome feature affording local people the opportunity to display their skills and talents adding further diversity.
The concept had wide local support and over time format and composition have changed and developed and continue to do so today.
Festival re-launching 2014
The festival originally held over the space of a week in May each year was re-launched in 2014 as St George’s Festival for Beckenham and rescheduled to June. At that time the scope of the venture was expanded to encompass a year round programme of Arts events under the umbrella of The Arts at St George’s and its aim was revised accordingly.
The central aim of the Arts at St. George’s now is to produce a year round programme of Arts events, including an annual Arts Festival, for the benefit of the community of Beckenham and its surrounding areas, enabling St. George’s Church to be a valued resource for the whole community.
It now comprises the very best that St George’s, the local community and artistes on a wider canvas can provide. This is evidenced by the return, sometimes again and again, and often at their own request, of professional performers who have valued the opportunity of taking advantage of that which St George’s can offer. When some first appeared on our stage, for example ‘Show of Hands’, they were practically unknown but have since become internationally renown, while a number of Jazz performers have made constant return visits over the years.
In addition to the festival and the other main events through the year free recitals are held each Friday at 12.30pm and Saturday at 11pm with more occasional recitals at 5pm on Saturdays.
While supported by the church and its congregation the venture is self-funding. The annual seed capital for the project is provided by a small number of ‘Friends’ some of whom are members of the congregation and others of the wider community of Beckenham and beyond. Events are run on a ‘not for profit’ basis with funds being ring fenced from the main assets of the church. Any surpluses are retained to enable more and better events to be run for the benefit of the community. A number of events are run each year for the benefit of external charities.
Surpluses and Charitable Donations and Benefits
Any surpluses are retained to enable more and better events to be run for the benefit of the community. A number of events are run each year for the benefit of external charities. Since 2014 the charitable donations and benefits from our venture have amounted to over £23,000.
The church has a resident professional chamber orchestra, St George’s Chamber Orchestra https://sgco.co.uk which gives four or five concerts of the highest standards each year. Its musicians are some of the finest in London.
The other member organisations are:-
St George’s Players https://stgeorgesplayers.co.uk
St George’s Flower Guild
Beckenham Chorale (Beckenham’s main choral society) https://beckenhamchorale.org.uk
Bromley Youth Music Trust https://bymt.co.uk
Information about each member organisation may be found under the individual menus under the About Tab.