Colchester Arts Centre's 'Cistern Chapel' named among the best loos in the country

  • Our reporter Russell Hookey looked around the toilet temple.

If you've got to spend a penny, there's probably nowhere better than a pilgrimage to Colchester's so-called Cistern Chapel.

The facilities in a converted church, transformed into a toilet temple during the pandemic, have been praised for their stunning mosaic-walled washrooms.

Colchester Arts Centre wanted public loos that reflected its creativity and so commissioned local artist and sculptor Ann Schwegmann-Fielding to give them a makeover during the Covid lockdown.

And the ideas flowed from there, with Ms Schwegmann-Fielding using memorabilia from the centre's history and donations from the community as part of the design.

A letter of complaint to the centre from the 1990s, referring to a performance by Graham Norton, was included in the mosaic, along with crockery and pennies donated by the public.

The attention to detail runs throughout Colchester Arts Centre's design. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Ms Schwegmann-Fielding said: “When I get the pieces donated by people, it’s theirs, it’s their work. It’s their energy, it’s their item that’s going into the mosaic.

"So I really believe that public artwork is at its best when [after] the pieces are installed, it looks like its home. It looks like it’s always been there.”

The idea was commissioned by the director of the arts centre Dr Anthony Roberts.

He said: “Being an arts centre, we thought it might be fun to invite an artist to help us.

“Maybe you subliminally judge a place by the loo. I’m thinking of restaurants, if you have a bad experience then you’re not going to think it’s a very good restaurant.

"Ours is a little arts centre, we work in a little church, we do rock'n'roll, we do comedy... Why shouldn't that just have the most splendid toilets in the world?"

Part of the design included urinals doubling as a sink. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The facilities were nominated for Loo of the Year, the winners of which were announced on Thursday night.

The arts centre did not end the night rated number one but was still flushed with success with four wins out of the 61 categories.

It won the Quirky Design category and Eco Toilet of the Year for using recycled materials in the mosaics.

It also won the Platinum Plus overall award and Washroom Cleaner of the Year.

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