Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Handle with Prayer

At first glance you’ll think you know what it is: yet another old building in East London which somebody has decided to ‘revive’ through the medium of the spray can.

Well possibly. Except that it stands in the churchyard of St Leonard’s, Shoreditch, which is better known to all those who use the 149, 242 and other buses as ‘Shoreditch Church’. I must have passed the front door many hundreds of times, but until last week have never been round churchyard at the back. That was when I saw this stand-alone building, with its striking treatment. I wonder if the Vicar was asked for permission; he must certainly approve the message.

I had read that the church has strong theatrical connections as the first purpose built theatre in England stood close by, and some early theatrical celebrities are buried there. So today I thought I’d wander down and take a look inside.

I was surprised to arrive outside and find the scene below: police on the pavement and a car-lift removing a hearse. Surely the police couldn’t be so insensitive as to remove a hearse whilst a funeral service was underway inside the church.

In fact it was a film crew, using the church as a location for a new tv sit-com. I was able to slip inside whilst they shot an exterior scene and picking my way over cables, stands, make-up boxes and the inevitable tea-urns could have a good look. The church is impressive, quite simply decorated, and in some disrepair with evidence of water penetration at roof level. I shall go back another time to find the various memorials to the actors but when I came out I found actor Tom Hollander on the pavement, in cassock, pleading for the hearse to be lowered back down on to the road: a scene from the show being rehearsed.

Apparently the series will screen in the autumn on BBC2, is called ‘Handle With Prayer’ and you can find out more about it here. There is a BBC press release here:

The church has a Wikipedia entry at:'s,_Shoreditch

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