Marsh Awards for Innovative Church Projects 2017 - Winners


Playzone@Penzance, a safe indoor play space for children at St John the Baptist Church in Penzance, has won the 2017 Marsh Award for Innovative Church Projects.

They received the award at the Churches Trusts Forum Conference at Manchester Methodist Central Hall on 18 May 2017, announced by Methodist Superintendent Rev Stuart Wild and Nick Carter from the Marsh Christian Trust. The church also received a £1,000 prize. 

St John the Baptist Church, Penzance, Cornwall, created ‘Playzone@Penzance’, a safe and flexible space for children to play, by removing pews, moving the font, and installing a soft play area. St John's is part of the Penlee Cluster, a group of four churches working together and sharing resources to best serve the Penzance area. 

The judges liked the high level of community involvement, innovative partnerships with other groups, exceptional involvement with parents and children. They especially liked the contribution of local children in designing the equipment.

They commented that: "impact is high in this community, which has high levels of deprivation. The project is contributing significantly to the use, engagement, and condition of the building."

Playzone@Penzance is a place where children can play in a safe and fun indoor space, used by families and schools. A group called ‘Coachhouse’, who provide accommodation for vulnerable young people, sell cakes and lunchboxes for a low cost. It provides much needed employment, and work experience for a rota of volunteers.

Sian Yates, Team Rector, said:

"We are delighted to receive this award from the Marsh Christian Trust which reflects all the hard work and creative input from so many people at the Playzone. We look forward to continuing our work in the community and increasing the use of our church."

The runner-up

The runner-up is St James and Emmanuel Church, Didsbury, Manchester which has set up Home Community Café. The church received a £500 prize.

The foyer of the Grade II listed Victorian church has been transformed with a kitchen, toilets, fellowship area, and baby changing area. Previously wasted space is now a lively and bustling hub, a centre of hospitality for the whole community.

The judges were impressed by the highly efficient management model and rapid growth of the project. Particularly impressive was the range of activities and partnerships with other organisations.

They commented: "the project is contributing to use and engagement with the church and to the sustainability of the building. There was strong awareness of the community's needs and of the need to invest in the building to support future development."

Download case study

Home Community Cafe

Shortlisted projects

Six inspiring community projects from around the country were shortlisted for the 2017 Marsh Awards for Innovative Churches Projects. Read about the full shortlist.

A special mention was given to Soupalunch, at Hawick Congregational Community Church in Roxburghshire, which has an emphasis on tackling the important issues of isolation and loneliness. 

Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust, said:

“I’m delighted Playzone@Penzance, a fantastic project to provide a welcoming space for children and families at St John the Baptist Church in Penzance, has won the 2017 Marsh Awards for Innovative Church Projects.

The church worked incredibly hard to make sure that local people were consulted on how to make the building more welcoming and accessible. Playzone@Penzance is now used extensively and the church has become an invaluable community hub.”

“Congratulations go to Home Community Café at St James and Emmanuel Church, Didsbury, the runner up. This warm and welcoming project opens the church to the entire community."

“The National Churches Trust works to ensure that the UK’s churches are in good repair and able to serve local people. The Marsh Awards for Innovative Church Projects show that by investing in new facilities and opening up their building to community use, churches make life better for local people.”

The Marsh Awards

The Marsh Awards for Innovative Church Projects show the positive impact that installing new facilities such as kitchens and toilets has on churches and local. They are run jointly by the National Churches Trust, the UK’s church building support charity, and the Marsh Christian Trust.