Shining a light on St Michael’s Byker

First published on: 26th May 2021

An iconic church in Newcastle’s East End which had fallen into a state of disrepair will soon be back in the spotlight thanks to an ambitious project.

Grand plans are in the making to transform St Michael’s Church, based in the heart of Byker, into a sustainable youth and community hub.

Built in 1862, St Michael’s has exquisite views looking down over the Tyne, onto the Quayside, and was fabled as the light at the top of the hill when sailors would return home to Newcastle.

Named after its historical link to the city’s sailors, Revd Phil Medley established the Lighthouse Project in 2016.

This initiative was set up to protect the church from further decay and to explore how the building could be better used in the future – while ensuring it remains a treasured landmark of Newcastle.

In development with Mission Initiative Newcastle East (MINE), the Lighthouse Project aims to provide a sustainable youth and community hub as well as a flexible worship space and private hire offer.

Phil said: "The Lighthouse Project is about our commitment to be an active Christian presence in the Byker community. We have an opportunity to develop this wonderful building into an exciting and aspirational hub for young people. There is still a long way to go but we've been delighted by the support we have already received."

Having received funding in order to reinvigorate the grounds and undergo roof repairs in 2018, the church still needs vital works in order for it to be used effectively by the community.

A marquee was erected inside the nave in 2017 in order to hold services in the church within a safe space that was easily heated, although worship services were suspended during the Covid pandemic and have moved online.

The church is currently used by Byker Scouts, Streetwise and MINE Youth, which have all worked hard to ensure their vital work with children and young people continues over lockdown.

Thanks to funding from Mercer’s, MINE were able to hire a Project Coordinator – Lauren Sanderson - in September 2020, which began a process of community consultation. Speaking to members of Byker community, charities and stakeholders to find out what they wanted to see in the redevelopment.

This has resulted in the establishment of strong partnerships across the third sector which will boost the resources provided within St Michael’s in the future.

Still in the early stages of development, the Lighthouse steering group is currently looking to appoint an architect to see it through the design and building stages.

Lauren added: “This is an exciting time for us as it enables us to cater to the community's needs as well as specific partners requirements within the building.”

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