Islington Union Chapel gets helping hand from volunteers

PUBLISHED: 16:39 12 September 2016 | UPDATED: 16:39 12 September 2016

The campers in the Chapel with their certificates

The campers in the Chapel with their certificates


Young people from around Europe attended a different kind of camp this summer as they helped restore Islington’s Union Chapel.

Two of the campers scrubbing away at the brassTwo of the campers scrubbing away at the brass

Armed with nothing but polish, brushes and elbow grease, the seven campers and two leaders took to every corner of the chapel.

They polished brass that hadn’t been touched in a century as well as making cushions for the pews, dismantling wooden structures, clearing and de-cluttering rooms, waxing the pews and supporting the church’s ongoing archive project.

The Heritage Camps’ volunteering programme, hosted by charity Volunteering Matters, aims to give young people aged 16 to 25 the chance to gain experience in volunteering, while also learning new skills. Over the course of a week they both worked and slept in the chapel.

While most participants this year came from Britain, there were representatives from France, Belgium and Greece too.

A volunteer get to cleaning the windows at the ChapelA volunteer get to cleaning the windows at the Chapel

Camper Freya spoke of her sense of accomplishment at the work the group did at the Chapel.

“When you are hard at working polishing all day, and see the brass go from black to glimmering gold, it’s such a sense of achievement,” she said.

Vera Gkoufa, originally from Athens and a student at University College London, was one of the programme leaders. She said the experience was one she won’t forget.

“Doing versatile conservation works inside the chapel was a very rewarding task, as we felt that we were improving the state of the site for the wider Islington community and various visitors to the chapel,” she said.

“Spending a whole week living and working inside a listed monument is a rare privilege for young people, and it was one of the most interesting experiences I’ve had so far in the UK.”

And it’s not just the volunteers that enjoyed the experience – the church loved it, too.

“They were wonderful young people, and it was great to have them here helping out,” said Peter Stapleton, venue manager at the chapel.

“Having nine extra pairs of hands to help out has been really useful. I hope it’s something that can continue.”

To find out more about Volunteering Matters, visit

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