Quakers in Britain launch 'inspiring' worship and conference centre

By agency reporter
November 3, 2014

Quakers in Britain will launch one of London’s newest auditoriums on 10 November, following a £4.5 million renovation.

The Light, to be launched on Monday 10 November, is the main hall in Friends House, a well-known venue for historic peace rallies where Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama have been significant visitors. Now Quakers in Britain are launching the refurbished space as a major London conference centre.

Traditionally the venue for Quakers’ Yearly Meeting which determines the work and witness of the movement, the 1,000 seat auditorium, opposite Euston Station, reflects Quakers’ ethos of fairness and sustainability. The new space is simple and fitting for worship, as well as being a destination venue for large conferences.

Quakers in Britain say the refurbishment makes Friends House a more versatile and sustainable building, accessible to all, a haven in the city and expressive of radical ideas.

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain said: “Quakers know the value of meeting together on equal terms, being able to listen and hear one another and see each other’s faces. In The Light we have a space which allows us and others to do just that. A space which speaks about Quakers to the world and yet is contemporary and exciting.”

Key heritage features have been retained while a stunning roof light in a vaulted roof have been installed. The 3.3 metre square roof light allows light in from above, not seen since the original clerestory windows of the award-winning 1926 Hubert Lidbetter design were hidden by the 1950s ceiling.

The Light will be fully accessible, including a flexi step to the stage and a new lift.

Recycle and re-use have been the watch words. Old wooden panelling has been crafted into benches for Friends House and for the new café at Quaker Swarthmoor Hall in Cumbria, while toilets have been recycled to a development project in Sierra Leone.

Already bookings are brisk – the Criminal Law Friendly Society, Grace Baptist Mission and Occupy London and students of Birkbeck College, University of London, are among the first customers.

The project architects are John McAslan + Partners. The building company Westco Partnership are working on both The Light and redeveloping Friends House garden, installing an electricity sub-station, an external lift and gently sloping paths to improve access for all.

A twentieth century listed building, designed by architect Hubert Lidbetter, Friends House includes offices for Quakers’ centrally employed staff, an historic library, award winning restaurant and the Quaker Centre with its worship space, bookshop and café.

* For The Light see www.thelightateuston.org.uk/

* Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

* Friends House, a listed building, was designed by Hubert Lidbetter and won the 1927 RIBA bronze medal for best building erected in London.

[Ekk/4]

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