Sir David Attenborough opens Richmond church art fair


Broadcasting legend Sir David Attenborough opened a charity art fair at the iconic St Matthias Church on Richmond Hill last Friday.


By Philip James

Broadcasting legend Sir David Attenborough opened a charity art fair at the iconic St Matthias Church on Richmond Hill last Friday.

The Friends of St Matthias annual art fair aims to raise money for the conservation of the church spire and buildings.

The fair was opened by Sir David, himself a Richmond Hill resident, at a private viewing for Friends of St Matthias members and the contributing artists.

Laura May, of the Friends of St Matthias, organised the event and has a special place in her heart for the church having married there two years ago.

Laura said: “It’s great when you have a pillar of the community like Sir David supporting.”

The fair, like the church, has a community focus aiming to also raise the profile of local artists and businesses.

Over 400 exhibits were contributed by more than 70 artists, the majority of whom are from the Richmond area.

The fair showcases established names but also gives an opportunity to those artists who rarely exhibit their work and has provided some with their first sales.

From each sale 35% of the proceeds go to the charity and the 2010 fair raised £1,500.

Richmond Hill Bakery sponsored the event while Titfertat Hats and William Curley Chocolatier donated prizes to be raffled alongside Sir David’s autographed Frozen Planet book.

St Matthias’ interior was altered in 1977-78 specifically to facilitate its broader use by the Richmond Hill community.

The resulting community centre is today home to a nursery, coffee mornings and ballet classes which are used by residents as well as the church congregation.

Chris Pearson, the chair of the Friends of St Matthias, said: “Everyone in the community enjoys the benefits of St Matthias.”

The church is an English Heritage Grade II listed building and was designed by renowned Victorian architect George Gilbert Scott.

Consecrated in 1858, a public appeal for funds was needed to finally finish the tower and spire in 1862.

Despite work in 1958 to repair significant bomb damage from the war, Mr Pearson explained that by 1987 the church was virtually falling down.

Substantial restoration was carried out in 1988-99, funded again by the parish and through a public appeal led by Sir David Attenborough.

In 1988 Sir David said: “Today more than ever we need the inspiration of buildings such as St Matthias which has the ability to lift our hearts and minds above the materialistic pressures of our busy lives.”

Fast-forward 23 years and Sir David was giving up his time again for the St Matthias cause.

The money raised from the art fair may soon be utilised with the restoration of the church’s West Frontage the next big project.

On Saturday 19 November, St Matthias holds its Christmas fair, where the art exhibits will be replaced by festive stalls and trips up the spire.


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