Voices raised at Devizes concert for St Mary’s Church

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Southbroom St James pupils sing at St Mary's Church, Devizes Southbroom St James pupils sing at St Mary's Church, Devizes

More than 200 children from seven primary schools in and around Devizes performed at St Mary’s Church.

The youngsters sang, danced and did readings before a packed audience of parents and friends. Art work and puppets were also on display.

The concert, organised by St Mary’s Devizes Trust, was part of a series of events aimed at raising the profile of the building as a potential arts centre.

Supporters were devastated last October when Wiltshire Council turned down plans for a cloister extension which would have provided a kitchen, toilets, an office and changing facilities for events.

An appeal hearing is due to be held on August 6.

Wiltshire Council planning officers and English Heritage have opposed the plan, amid concerns that it would be too big and harm the setting of St Mary’s Church, a Grade I listed building.

The Rev Canon Paul Richardson, rector of St Mary’s, said: “The main reason for appealing is because we think the plan we put in is the best possible option for St Mary’s.”

Dave Buxton, of St Mary’s Trust, said: “The programme of events is clearly demonstrating that there is a demand for an arts and community venue in Devizes, but the building is not currently well set up for the purpose.

“There is no kitchen facility, we need to hire portable toilets, which are expensive, we hire sound and lights each time and sitting on Victorian pews for an hour or two is certainly a ‘straightening’ audience experience.

“Despite this, audiences are usually very enthusiastic about the idea, endorse our efforts to make the improvements and always comment on the beauty of the building and the importance of giving it a new role such as this.”

On Saturday night, a cabaret evening with an electro-swing DJ and hip-hop artist Professor Elemental was staged at the church.

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