Chruch to cinema in honour of famous resident

PUBLISHED: 13:07 13 August 2010

tHEre are Great Expectations for a unique fundraising venture which will see a 900-year-old church become a cinema.

St Mary’s Church in Church Street, Lower Higham, is due to screen the 1946 version of the famous film on Saturday, marking the 150th anniversary of the novel penned by Charles Dickens, the village’s most famous resident.

Situated at the most northerly tip of Higham parish, St Mary’s was made officially redundant in 1987 and passed into the hands of the Church Conservation Trust, with services only held at major Christian festivals, such as Christmas and Easter.

Volunteer group Friends of St Mary’s was established in 2008 to find uses for the building and bring it back into community focus and the conversion to a cinema represents the group’s most audacious plan yet.

Chairman Joe McLaren said: “We have the space and the seats. It is a bit unusual but we’ve chosen a film that is special to the area and on a special celebration of the story.

“We are always very conscious that it is still used as a church and seen as hallow ground and is regarded as a place of worship but we are yet to receive any negative comments about the idea. It is not a commercial venture.”

Equipment is provided by company Film Scene UK which will install the temporary screen and sound system on the day.

“We see the church’s role originally as something for the community and we want to restore that. If is can be used for reason possible to get people in that is better than it lying empty,” added Mr MCaLaren.

The church has undergone a major renovation over the winter, with electricity installed and repainting and repointing work undertaken and the group is keen to entice people to see the building at its best.

Tickets, which cost £12 for adults £6 for under 16 are available by calling 01474 823906.

The film is due to be screened at 2 and 7.15pm with refreshments offered afterwards.

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