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Dad and son, 5, living in a 19th century South London church tower fight to stop it from being developed into luxury flats

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A father and son duo who have been living and working in a 19th century South London church tower are fighting to save the historic landmark from being redeveloped into flats – but time is running out.

Henrik Delehag, 48, and his five year old son have been living in the Christchurch tower in Forest Hill over the course of the year and are proud to call the unusual landmark their home.

Henrik is an artist and is seeking to raise £1 million to buy the church from the current landlord with a mind to turning it into a community arts haven.

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Henrik is fighting to safe the church

To this end, the renowned iconographer has devised a campaign named ‘100 years, 100 artists’ to raise money for the purchase of the tower.

If the lofty sum is reached, Henrik plans to set up an arts trust which would allow one artist and their family to live and work in the church for a year before passing over the keys to another.

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One of the bedrooms in the tower

Speaking to MyLondon, Henrik admitted the campaign had reached a critical stage.

He said: “I first found from the landlord that he basically had to sell it about a month ago.

“I then started the campaign, today is the start of the ten day count down when we’ll really see if we can accomplish this seemingly impossible mission.

“We have a long way to go, the final phase is that we are now looking for entrepreneurs and philanthropists to see if they can take us the next step of the way.

“My mission is to basically put it into a trust which allows the church to be used as a permanent art studio and lodgings.

“The idea is that one artist will be able to live and work there for one year while they work on a project. They will then hand over the keys to the next artist when their year is up.

“I’m calling it 100 artists, 100 years, it’s a magical space for different types of work to be produce. It would be a waste for this building to no longer serve any use for the community and the world around it.”

‘Living in a nine storey tower isn’t for everyone’

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The proposed use of the tower

In order to raise some money towards the purchase of the church, Henrik has taken to selling some of his own eye-catching artwork.

Many of his pieces were created inside the hallowed walls of the building. He says that the church’s ambience directly contributed to his creative flow.

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The church is a unique place to live

However, he did admit that there were some hang ups to living in a nine story tower.

He explained: “It’s a very peculiar place to live, I saw it on the listing and went for it – it was purely accidental.

“It’s not for everyone, if you forget things downstairs you’ll be mad at yourself.

“It has nine floors so it’s a long way up and down. It keeps you fit.

“I needed the studio space and it worked really well for me, I know first-hand the potential of the place.

“The pros outweigh the cons.”

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‘We have to keep the church turned on’

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Time is running out

With time running down on Henrik’s campaign, he knows that unless they are able to raise the remaining £732,000 the church will be sold and developed on.

This he affirms, cannot be allowed to happen.

He said: “If we do not find the £1 million the church will be sold and developed. Everyone in the community wants the church to stay the way it is.

“I do believe it is the structural centre of the community, it’s very important to keep it turned on.”

If you would like to donate to the fundraiser, you can so here.

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https://www.mylondon.news/news/south-london-news/dad-son-5-living-19th-21498214