Good Catholic girl that I am, I am never keen to see either churches or pubs razed to the ground. But it looks as if the outcome of the consultation – which concludes on Monday January 8 – as to whether the derelict St Elisabeth’s Church in Victoria Drive (and not the lovely modern and friendly church of the same name next door) will be to knock it down and redevelop the site. But what to do with the famous Hans Feibusch Pilgrim’s Progress mural within the crypt of the redundant church? For those that haven’t seen it, the mural wraps around three sides of the room and depicts the journey of Christian and his wife Christiana – one on each side of the room – through their various trials to meet in the Celestial City. The mural is fragile, well worn and damaged from wear and tear such as chairs scraping against the walls and from children playing football in the room and using one of the areas as a goal. Historians say the mural is of great cultural value, has lost none of its impact and should be saved. That will be at a cost of £300,000 and the Church of England has made it quite clear that those who want it salvaged, preserved and moved, quite possibly to the Leaf Hall in Eastbourne, will have to raise the money themselves. I wish them well.
Without wanting to stir up too much the crowd that want my head on a stick on display inside the Towner for my opinion on the council slashing the amount of taxpayers’ money it gives it each year, I would like to point out a couple of things. I agree the gallery is great for the town and Eastbourne should be forward thinking. A lot of people say it’s about social good and that mustn’t be lost. I say social good is important and wouldn’t we all love everything in the garden to be just perfect. But when there isn’t enough money for ‘just perfect’, I say never mind social good; I say let’s spend the pounds and pence on the most important fundamental and basic services in society first and then if, when life improves, we can spend money in the garden too. In other words the Towner offering is not a basic must have need. It’s an optional extra, a luxury item, a bit like Sky Sports or me buying a superdooper mountain bike. Nice to have, but too expensive and only of interest to one person in my family, me – I think you get my point.
Just before Christmas I was invited to a very special celebration evening with the Eastbourne group A Band of Brothers, which works with troubled young men providing them with the support they need to make the transition to an adulthood free of crime, and full of connection, purpose and meaning. The Homecoming evening celebrated the success of bringing young men and adult role models together in an intensive contemporary rites-of-passage experience and an accredited mentoring programme. The highlight of the evening for me was listening to two participants Connor and Kellain who told us about their trepidation, preconceptions, wonderment, enlightenment and realisation at just what they had achieved and how far they had come in their journey. Totally inspirational.