St John’s serves one of the most diverse and vibrant communities in England, the Coldharbour ward of Brixton in Lambeth, South London. The area east of Brixton is diverse in every way, bursting with the new energy of incoming residents and businesses from a dizzying variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, as well as new Pentecostal and Evangelical Churches. St. Johns Church has stood proudly for over 160 years, not just for ourselves but for the community around us. Indeed, the area and church was developed to accommodate those moving from north of the river Thames, and Brixton and Angell town remains a place of welcome for incomers. During the 1960s, Brixton welcomed migrants from the Caribbean, and St. John’s church was renowned for its welcome to these new members of the community.
Once again, Angell Town soon gained a reputation for neglect and decline and became stigmatised as a sink estate. In a scheme notable for the high degree of residents’ participation in the consultative process, the estate was radically redeveloped from the mid-1990s. The design of the low rise new homes was environmentally friendly opening into wide streets and squares. There are now a number of shops on the estate but sadly there is still no community hall.
The parish extends well beyond Angell Town and includes much of Coldharbour ward in Brixton. Angell Town parish does not include the town centre of Brixton, but comprises a significant part of Brixton East including part of Coldharbour Lane, Loughborough Junction railway station and the surrounding streets and housing estates located in the ward. Hence, we serve not only Angel Town estate, but also Loughborough, Moorlands, Canterbury Gardens and Hertford Estates. Each of these areas have their own challenges, and the church works hard to link together the people and the communities through community programmes and projects.
The main hubs of the area are the church and parish school, which are based in the north of the parish close to the Angell town estate. The first parish school was built in 1853 and is located close to central Brixton. A new school was built next to the church in the 1970s for the growing population and the numbers of families coming into the area. By 2014, the building was no longer fit for purpose. By 2016 a new school had been built on the same footprint as the 1970s build, moving away from low rise buildings and portacabins, to a large three form entry, three storey building (image below). Due to size of the new build, the school will work to provide community space for engaging and building community links.
A major development for the area came in September 2015, with the London Evening Standard’s feature on the estate and their campaign to bring about changes to the lives of people on estates throughout London. Through the work of David Cohen, the lead editor, and the Dispossessed Fund, grants have been channelled into a number of projects in Angell Town to help bring about community development and encourage community cohesion. The Vicar and the church have been at the heart of the community campaign, appearing in many of the articles and the Vicar being used as the cover for the evening Standard Christmas Card.