The past is beautiful

The chapel and the art of time travel

The past is beautiful

“I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.”
―Virginia Woolf, Fitzrovia Resident

As artistic director of an important heritage site, I often feel like a time traveller. In any one day, I can shift between learning about mosaic conservation and traditional building methods to curating cutting-edge contemporary interpretation for the chapel. My focus will also be on organisational sustainability, ensuring that long after I am gone, there will be a legacy which will inspire the chapel’s future custodians.

Last week, I met with Annie Lindsey, Archivist at UCLH, who looks after many of the items from the former Middlesex Hospital and who has a library of chapel images. Annie, a time traveller also, ensures that records are kept of the past but brings these items to a contemporary audience though UCLH’s heritage trail.

We met during our regular Wednesday open day (11:00 to 16:00) and as is usual, I spent part of the day connecting with Fitzrovia locals and former members and patients of the hospital community. Each person has a memory of their time there and of the chapel, which always looks more beautiful than they remember.

Why is that? Some say that building has never been so well maintained and was a little overlooked during busy hospital life. Others say that looking back on that time produces such nostalgia that they appreciate their time at the hospital more as each year passes. For others, it is simply that we are all that is left.

As writer Virginia Woolf, former resident of Fitzrovia, reflected, ‘the past is beautiful’. For many connected to the former hospital, the emotions of that time have expanded and become complete.

It is for that reason that we are planning ‘Lineage’, a series of events that will celebrate the history of the chapel, from its place within the hospital to its position within Fitzrovia.

My hope is that Lineage’ will be as beautiful as those memories. I look forward to sharing the past with the present Fitzrovia residents and other chapel friends and supporters.