David Ackerman shows how a London parish said ‘Thank you, for everything’
Platinum Jubilee celebrations for Her Majesty the Queen took place at St John’s Church, Kensal Green, as they did throughout the Commonwealth. At St John’s, Accession Day (2nd February) marked the moment of the Queen’s Accession to the throne in 1952 with tree planting and presentation of Jubilee mugs by the Representative Lieutenant for Westminster, Kevin Traverse-Healy. The trees were recorded as a part of The Queen’s Green Canopy and in addition to those formally planted by Mr Traverse-Healy, two ornamental cherry trees were gifted by the Sakura Trust, celebrating Anglo-Japanese relations. Later, as a part of national celebrations at the beginning of June, it was the Commonwealth of Nations which took centre stage as new stained glass was unveiled, and blessed on Pentecost Sunday by the Bishop of Fulham.
Designed and made by John Reyntiens, whose glass in Westminster Hall was the gift of Parliament in Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee year in 2012, ‘The Flowers of the Commonwealth’ are a fitting tribute to The Queen’s life of service, role as sovereign of many nations, and example to so many. The idea of the design came to me when thinking about how the present day reality of the parish could add to the “story of the church”. The two circular windows at the west end of the church were only added in the 1940s following bomb damage. It was important to retain the glass and frames. So many who worship in the church are from the Commonwealth or are their descendants. The design therefore not only brings people together but celebrates the Queen’s example of bringing nations and their peoples together and Her Majesty’s role in shaping and leading the Commonwealth of nations. At the beginning of her reign, the Queen said the Commonwealth of Nations was a ‘new conception of an equal partnership of nations and races I shall give myself heart and soul every day of my life’. Our windows embody that vision and promise, It is refreshing to see unity within diversity and an example of how creativity can unite rather than divide people. At the heart of the rose windows are roses which look to the beginnings of the parish, they are from the coat of Arms of All Souls’ Oxford which donated the land upon which St Johns is built and donated £2,000 to the cost of the project. We see then in these beautiful designs something of the past, the present, and above all a lasting tribute to an extraordinary reign.
The techniques we have used to translate the designs into the glass really push the boundaries of the medium of stained glass, etching flash glass, hand painting and enamelling and plating to create a wide range of intense colours. Director John Reyntiens credits this to a project we worked on for a major British artist last year, where we really developed these techniques. The results are two bright and energetic windows, full of life, reflecting both the vibrancy of the local community and congregation but also of the Commonwealth.
Whilst not all the flowers of the Commonwealth are included, we have selected a mixture from across the continents. Many in the Church’s congregation have strong Caribbean roots, so we made sure to reference flowers such as the Poinciana of St Kitts and Nevis, the Yellow Elder of the Bahamas and the Lignum Vitae of Jamaica. One of the other noteworthy flowers included is the Centurea, the national flower of Malta. After the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, the church asked if there was something we could add to remember Prince Phillip. We chose the flower of Malta as this was where Phillip was stationed for many years and where HRH and the then Princess Elizabeth lived in the early years of their marriage.
Reyntiens Glass Studio