Through our news and wedding photography, we often get the opportunity to photograph massively significant moments for individuals, families, communities and indeed countries. The launch of JW3 really felt like an extraordinarily significant moment for the Jewish community in the UK, a real new dawn in the way Jewish people can go about being Jewish… in whatever way they choose to do so.
The aim of JW3, a brand new £50 million community centre in between the very Jewishly populated north London and the city centre, is to ‘transform the Jewish landscape by helping to create a vibrant, diverse and proud community, inspired by and engaged in Jewish arts, culture and community’. Sure, there are other community centres and synagogues with diverse programmes of events, but this is different – JW3 sits loudly and proudly on one of the busiest roads in Europe and positively screams to every passer-by “Hey you! We’re Jewish, come on in and enjoy what we have to offer.”
We were privileged to be the official photography team behind the launch – a massive three day affair which saw over 5,000 people come through the doors, with young Jews, old Jews, academic Jews, creative Jews and non Jews queueing half way up the Finchley Road to get in and see what all the fuss was about. The scale of this launch isn’t something the Jewish community has seen before, an entire ‘Garden of Eden’ filling the outdoor piazza, and hundreds of varied activities, fuelled by exceptional coffee and gourmet food, happening in the bright and airy, purpose built rooms within.
For the most part, we had a five-person team at the venue. This included myself (Blake) as a roaming photographer, attempting to cover as many moments as possible across three days, Steph on the ‘Adam and Eve’ popup outside welcoming all-comers to have their picture taken, Lee one of our amazing Associate Photographers covering the Ronna and Beverly show on the Monday night, Josh assisting to make sure that photographic proceedings went to plan, and Lizzie in the on-site office editing and retouching pictures throughout the days, ensuring they were made available immediately, helping JW3 to maximise the international press coverage of the launch. Our longer term brief is to help JW3 create a diverse, interesting and visually stunning library of stock images which can be used for years to come, never before have we been so excited by an ongoing project.
The interest in the launch was clear to see, with BBC News reporting live throughout the day interviewing everyone from CEO Raymond Simonson, Chef at the Zest restaurant Eran Tibi and comedian David Baddiel. It was great for us to see some familiar faces involved too, including Steph Saffer of bespoke chocolate company Kokopelli’s running a predictably popular chocolate tasting workshop in the demonstration kitchen, the top musicians from Metropolis playing a consummate jazz set on the Sunday, critically acclaimed musician and artist Gideon Conn, Amy and Lindsey from innovative Kosher Roast who we recently photographed in our studio for their portrait in the JW3 magazine, and Israeli hip-hop funk legends Hadag Nahash filling the hall on the opening night.
The official opening ceremony of this ten-year project was on the Tuesday evening, it was an invitation-only affair with speeches by notable dignitaries including major benefactor Dame Vivienne Duffield and Sir Anish Kapoor, who designed the mezuzah which now adorns the front door. The mezuzah was blessed by none other than Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who spoke inspirationally to those present.
JW3 is a game-changer for perhaps not just the Jewish community, but all minority communities in the UK. This beautifully designed building, meticulously planned by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, will stand proudly on the Finchley Road for generations to come – inspiring art, conversation, thought, music and great food… and in many years time, everyone lucky enough to be involved in the launch will be able to say “I was there.” Here are a few of our favourite shots from across the three days…