Repurposing a deconsecrated Church into a thriving arts and community space

x-church, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire

Former church of St. John the Divine, interior
Declared redundant in 2002. Now x-church, an arts and youth project.
This very large church was intended to be much larger. It was designed by Somers Clerke and Micklethwaite in 1881. LinkExternal link
   © Copyright Jonathan Thacker and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

In 2005 Marcus Hammond saw an advert for sale of the deconsecrated Church of St. John the Divine in his local newspaper. He bought it for £75,000, using funds left after his father died. Hammond’s father was a church architect, and before his passing he surveyed and drew up plans for the CofE to approve the purchase.

Today, the space is known as x-church, run by the not-for-profit Slumgothic. It’s a thriving community center and arts and music space, and rooted in the needs of young people in the immediate area. This is the story of how Hammond developed and financed the project

A year after Marcus bought the church, he founded the not-for-profit Slumgothic, which today runs the former Church as a social enterprise. Many of these activities, such as sports classes held in x-church, and the cafe, raise revenue.

Funding

The Church building has a smaller space (the school room) which adjoins the vast main hall. In 2013 it needed refurbishment. Slumgothic saw potential in the space for additional groups from the community, particularly older people, and to provide a warm, busy counterpoint to the majestic austerity of the main building.

In 2013-14 Slumgothic received £40,000 from the Community Lincs’s Community Assets Fund (CAF) as a mixture of grant and loan funding to refurbish the schoolroom.

Slumgothic is a fantastic example of turning a disused asset into something that benefits the community. The project has engaged and inspired hundreds of young people and has given them the ability to shape the development of x-church. The Community Assets Fund is looking to support community groups to establish and grow innovative projects like this that are focused on providing real, lasting value to their local communities.

Andrew Croft, Chair of the Community Assets Fund Investment Advisory Panel

Commenting on working with the Community Asset Fund (CAF) Marcus Hammond, Director of Slumgothic Ltd said:

The grant/loan mix is not a give-away but it is realistic and exactly what we have needed for some time. This work will make the world of difference to the scope of what we deliver.

Marcus Hammond, Director, x-church

Today the big income maker is fighting events – x-church hosts regular boxing matches and wrestling events, which brings in good money either through renting the space or ticketing.

The other big money-maker is the cafe – originally staffed by volunteers, during the pandemic the cafe was taken over by an external group who began using the space as a drop-in, providing mental health support, food parcels and free hot meals. The group rent the space from slumgothic.

The aspiration currently is to get the income to £15k a year and that will support the building and not-for-profit’s running costs.

Why this matters

Part of what is unusual and distinctive about the Slumgothic project is its commitment to being of the people and for the people. Since it’s conception it has focussed on the needs of young people, and those local young people are also represented on the not-for-profit board meetings, and – in some cases – have keys to the building.

This means that the activities and uses of x-church develop in conversation with the needs of the community groups who use it. This gives the Church a solid basis for funding and development, and demonstrates a grassroots, audience-first approach to project planning and business development.