Acrobats at St Paul’s Bristol
Last week they were gyms and Pokéstops in Pokémon Go. This week, churches across England are transforming into circuses, rock and pop venues, sleepover “champing” and “tower climb” challenge sites.
The first ever Church Tourism Week is dedicated to promoting the future of churches and their uses in the 21st century.
There will be mixed aerial classes and circus workshops, rock and pop concerts, overnight stays and a climb to the top of a church tower that will offer those who make it to the top a glimpse of France if the weather is good.
Organised by the Churches Conservation Trust, Church Tourism Week is taking place in the growing number of churches that are closed to worship and have been converted to new uses.
The trust was recently gifted £600,000 by the Goverment’s Culture Department to develop its urban churches into first-rate visitor attractions, leading to an 18 per cent increase in visitor numbers last year. This year it hopes to reach a record two million visitors across its 349 sites.
Aldwincle’Champing’ at All Saints, Aldwincle, Northants
Crispin Truman, head of the trust, said: “England’s treasured churches not only tell the fascinating histories of their communities, but also host some of the country’s most extraordinary and imaginative events and activities. Our first Church Tourism Week is about celebrating the incredible events and experiences on offer in our churches and inviting people to explore these extraordinary buildings.
“There’s something on offer for everyone, from new music in partnership with Dave Stewart Entertainment to our Champing in-church-camping adventures, tower climbs, family trails, craft activities, art exhibitions and tea parties around the country. Plus, I’ll be getting on my bike for a sponsored bike ride touring heritage churches in Worcestershire.”
At St Paul’s Bristol, a beautiful Grade 1 Gothic building, the public is invited to mixed-ability circus workshops. The church has one of only two permanently rigged full-size flying trapeze rigs in the UK.
Children enjoying activities at St Paul’s Bristol
In Kent, visitors are being offered the chance to climb the Haven Heights tower of St Peter’s for the first time, where they can enjoy unrivalled views of Sandwich and maybe even a glimpse of France on a clear day.
In Evesham, the Lake Poets will perform to audiences amid the intricately patterned vaulted 16th-century chapel of St Clement. They will also perform at Holy Trinity Church in Blackburn, a Gothic building on Mount Pleasant.
Children will be invited to become a Victorian architect for a day and build a church inside a church at All Saints’ Cambridge.
There will also be a number of summer tea parties throughout the country.
“These churches are a blueprint for the future of England’s churches, which would have otherwise been lost,” said a trust spokesman.
St Peter’s Sandwich is among the many churches taking part in Church Tourism Week