Southsea Lifestyle – Free Magazine for Southsea, Old Portsmouth, Eastney & Gunwharf Quays

The Organ Project

Written by Stella Bahin

Thanks to the vision and generosity of earlier benefactors, including one W H Smith, a cathedral-like church stands to this day on Portsmouth’s oldest church site: St Mary, Portsea. It was built as a monumental replacement for the former church that replaced the former church where Charles Dickens, who was born nearby, was baptised. Which in turn replaced a former church.

Evidence points to a church having stood there as far back as over 1,300 years ago. It’s possibly been a sacred and central place for purposeful community gathering even longer. Within the tall-towered building upon that most ancient site today resides an integral, bespoke Walker organ, pictured.

We see only a small portion of the magnificent instrument. Beyond what’s visible, its workings are intricate and extensive. Any necessary maintenance and repair requires great specialism and therefore great, prohibitive cost.

This highly-acclaimed organ – which for the past 125 years has been supporting Portsea’s weddings, baptisms, funerals, congregations, choirs, scholars, and concerts – through time and toil, is failing. The Organ Project has been set up to rescue it, and Portsmouth, from its impending silence.

Last year, having written a poem about Blake and Parry’s ‘Jerusalem’ – incorporating words I’d expressly collected from festival-goers as Blake Fest 2017’s Poet in Residence – I wondered if a short film, including my communally-sourced poem, and the anthem, might help draw attention to the organ’s plight.

By January 2018 – produced by local playwright Roger Goldsmith, filmed and edited by local film maker Chris Jupp – the 4-minute film was complete. With me: former St Mary’s Junior Chorister, Beatrix Crinnion; Director of Music, Brian Moles; and our island’s endangered organ.

Find Talking Jerusalem on YouTube, via or at and please follow the JustGiving link for donations, even the smallest is welcome. We can save the organ.

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