Diocese of Portsmouth

    Lottery funding to develop heritage and culture in Portsmouth

    29 June 2020

    NATIONAL Lottery funding will help to develop and share music across Portsmouth, focused on the restoration of a historic church organ.

    The Organ Project, at St Mary’s Church in Fratton Road, has been awarded a £764,000 grant towards a three-year project to deliver engaging and inspiring activities associated with 130 years of music-making in the heart of the city of Portsmouth.

    The National Lottery Heritage Fund grant will be used to restore the church’s 1889 pipe organ, and deliver a programme of activities that seek to make a lasting difference to the lives of those living in Portsea Island. The parish of St Mary’s, Portsea, extended across most of Portsea Island during Victorian times.

    Those activities include:

    • Unique opportunities for young people to learn about the craft of organ restoration;
    • The commissioning of sonic ‘Postcards for Portsmouth’ to celebrate heritage and the range of music and art in the city;
    • The chance for people of all ages to experience the Wireless Organ project; a unique activity that allows the organ to be played remotely through a keyboard, microphone, guitar or computer, inside or outside the church;
    • An exploration of local heritage, including research into the sinking of HMS Royal George - the crew were largely recruited within Portsea Island, and St Mary’s Church holds a memorial to lost lives;
    • Workshops on sea shanties delivered to local schools;
    • Composing community music based on the ‘Pompey Chimes’, the musical motif of the city which is based on the St Mary’s tower clock, to be performed by local schoolchildren;
    • Researching the lives and memories of those living in Portsea Island, especially in connection with the Boer War – the oak organ case was given in memory to victims of the Boer War;
    • Reviving lost traditions, including the Victorian tea dance.

    The project aims to interpret the organ’s history, science, sound and function, inspiring creativity and interest in local heritage, history and music-making.

    St Mary’s Church has appointed the firm Nicholson & Co Ltd to restore the 1889 JW Walker and Sons pipe organ. Work is expected to start in November 2020 for completion in late 2021.

    The vicar, Canon Bob White, said: “We are delighted to have received this affirmation and support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. We look forward to sharing one of the treasures in our city with the whole community over the coming three years.

    “At the end of it, we will also be able to hand on to future generations the opportunity for them to explore and enjoy the organ, and the part it plays in our lives as a church and as a community.”

    Matt Dixon has been appointed as the Project Manager. Matt successfully developed the project from concept to this successful stage. He is passionate about the restoration and the community engagement aspects of the plan and the church will look forward to working with him to create this legacy for future generations.

    Canon Bob White said: “We are delighted at Matt’s appointment. He has a long association with the church community, progressing from chorister to organ scholar and now assistant organist. He embodies the desire of all involved in this project – to help local people enjoy and benefit from the heritage of St Mary’s Organ.

    And Matt Dixon, project manager, said: “We are thrilled that we’ve received this support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, with special thanks to all National Lottery players. We are excited to have this opportunity to explore, restore and preserve heritage for future generations, and to share an array of inspiring, exciting and engaging activities with people of all ages within our local communities.”

    For more information about the Organ Project, see: www.theorganproject.org. To share your views, please see: www.theorganproject.org/feedback.

    St Mary's, Portsea

    Fratton Road, Portsea, PO1 5PH

    More info

    Latest News

    More news