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‘Mindless’ vandals rip up church’s spectacular art installation

Father Michael Thomas says St Michael's has to consider its security arrangements

23 August, 2018 — By Helen Chapman

VANDALS have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage at a Camden Town church, leaving its vicar questioning whether it can leave its doors open.

An award-winning art installation that hangs near the pulpit at St Michael’s Church in Camden Road was recently discovered ripped up. It follows a series of incidents over the last six months that has left the church with a bill of more than £4,000 to cover repairs and damage. Speakers and statues have been stolen, while the sword of the St Michael statue was snapped off.

The ripped artwork was discovered by a church caretaker. Father Michael Thomas said: “People think of the Church of England as a wealthy institution but on the ground local churches pay their own way. We have to rely on what people give.”

He said that the vandalism to the artwork – a print made from photocopied bin bags installed in 2014 – has been reported to police. “I guess this is what happens when your church is open on a daily basis. The security of this place is a big concern for us now,” said Father Michael. “We don’t want to close our knuckles [the doors] or not keep it open during the day but this is a decision we are now battling with.” CCTV has not been able to help the investigation.

Father Michael said: “It tends to be people that have a deep and abiding relationship to this building that it hurts the most – those who come two to three times a week and at our Sunday service. The local homeless people look out for our church but at times when they’re not around, we are at mercy of whoever wants to come in and do some damage. It seems mindless. For whatever reason they decided they did not like the artwork and began to rip it off. I can’t fathom why somebody would want to come and do it.”

The church caretaker Richard Gosnold arrived at the church to find the artwork ripped. “It was awful, I felt responsible,” he said. “We changed the opening and closing times over August and left the church open a little bit later.”

The work was by artist Maciej Urbanek, who received the ACE Award for Work of Art in Religious Context for the installation. The artist, currently in the States, has ordered new panels and will go to the Royal Academy to have the work reprinted on his return in September.

Father Michael said: “He [the artist] would quite often bring people to Camden Town to see the work. It creates an explosion of light when the sun comes out at a certain time of day through the window. At the right time it really looks spectacular.”

A statement from the Met Police said: “Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

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