Members of the St John's Church Preservation Group are appealing to their members and supporters to put extra effort into fundraising to save the historic grade II listed historic Kates Hill St John’s Church building following a massive dip in donations.

Deb Brownlee Chair of the Preservation Group "We have the real potential to achieve what seemed impossible and save this piece of Dudley heritage. St John's was closed down in 2002 on safety grounds and was deemed at the time to be of no architectural or historic interest. Demolition was a real possibility. The church is now a listed building and further surveys have shown it to be both safe and repairable. We are now working with the church authorities to find a future for the building, which could well include re-opening it as a church. However, we are staring a pyrrhic victory in the face as the church leaders are at the table with us but we haven't as yet produced the funds we said would be provided by our supporters."

The Preservation Group has experienced a dramatic down turn in donations since the Grade II listing was announced in May, as supporters perceive that the building is now saved and that support is no longer needed. Listed status does not bring any automatic funds neither does it provide total protection against demolition.

Deb Brownlee "Everyone seems to think that the St John's is already saved. Nothing could be further from the truth. Listed status helps us to prove that the building is worthy of preservation but getting the building listed is only the first step on a very long journey. We currently we need £15000 for an essential feasibility study using specialist church conservation and conversion architects and for community consultation. We need to be able to instruct these specialist consultants as soon as possible so that we can get the ball rolling but we don’t have the funds in place. The feasibility study is needed to convince the church authorities that the building should be re-opened and to be able to apply for Heritage Lottery funding. We also need £16000 for the urgent waterproofing works and £5000 to replace the lightning conductor both of which will protect the building against further damage. There is no absolute guarantee with so much competition that we will get lottery funding and at the end of the day as we always expected it will be largely up to our supporters to show that they really do care about St John's Church and to help us raise the money.”

Patron of the group Professor Carl Chinn has backed the call for more help. Professor Chinn, "I am sure that the people of the Black Country will support the St John's Preservation Group in its aim to bring this historic church back into full use. Even in these hard times I feel certain that the folk of this region will find innovative and dynamic ways to raise the funds that are needed.”

The Preservation Group are calling on supporters to attend Preservation Group fundraising events and also to organise events on their behalf, and to involve their companies, schools and social clubs. Supporters are also asked to send donations, collect their loose change, set up weekly standing orders and consider legacy giving.

• Local Historian and author Ned Williams will be supporting Preservation Group members on Saturday 22nd August at an information stall on Dudley Market, where leaflets and information will be provided and donations can be made. Ned Williams’ most recent publication ‘Dudley Rediscovered’ which features Kates Hill and the campaign to Save St John’s Church will also be on sale. Local War Veteran and first manager of the Churchill Precinct Mick Coyle, winner of the Frank Foley Award for community work will also be supporting the Dudley Market St John’s Church Preservation Group information event.

Donations can be sent to St John’s Church Preservation Group, The Old School House, St John’s Road, Kates Hill, Dudley, DY2 7JT. Further information about the work and how to donate and help can be obtained on the Preservation Group's website


Black Country Comedian Aynuk has organised ‘Aynuk’s Black Country Show’ on behalf of St John’s Church Preservation Group in an effort to raise vitally needed funds towards the restoration of St John’s Church, Kates Hill.

Aynuk (Alan Smith) married his wife Mollie on 4th April 1959 at St John’s and the benefit show forms part of his fiftieth year wedding anniversary celebrations.

PICTURE - Aynuck (Alan Smith) and Mollie (March 2009)

Other performers working alongside Aynuk in the show are TV Star Lee Wilson (The Comedians), Black Country Comedienne Marlene and singer Beryl Briscoe. Also appearing with Aynuk for the first time is Emma Rollason appearing as ‘Dolly Allen’. All the performers are appearing free of charge to help support the efforts to save the historic St John’s Church, which is now also a Grade II listed building.

Deb Brownlee chair St John’s Church Preservation Group “This is the most amazing gesture by Aynuk and his friends and we couldn’t believe it when he rang to tell us of his connection to St John’s and offered to help. Aynuk’s son Paul of the Aynuk and Ali cafe in Netherton has also helped with the show by sponsoring tickets and posters so it is a real family affair. The funds raised from the show will go straight to the restoration of St John’s Church building and hopefully put us a step closer to being able to start on essential work before this winter.”

St John’s Church was closed to the public in 2002 following a survey which stated that the building was unsafe. Two subsequent surveys have shown the building to be both safe and repairable. The cost for restoration and redevelopment for use as a church and community centre over ten to twenty years will be around £941,000. The Preservation Group are currently trying to raise £16,000 for immediate waterproofing works, £5000 to replace the lightning conductor and £15,000 for an essential feasibility study.

Professor Carl Chinn, patron of the Preservation Group”It is uplifting to see such a high profile entertainer as Aynuk stepping forward to help Save St John’s Church. I call on all the local people to support this event and to help in any way they can to raise the restoration funds needed.”

The show takes place on Wednesday 26th August 7.30pm at Club Dudley (The former Dudley Labour Club) in Waterloo Street, Dudley and tickets are priced at £10 payable on the door or can be reserved in advance by emailing savestjohnschurch (at) or by telephoning 01384 357634. They can also be purchased from the Aynuk and Ali cafe in Netherton, Sofis cafe in Dudley or from Preservation Group members at St John’s Church on Saturdays from 10.30am onwards.

The show venue has been sponsored by Club Dudley owner Mo Susch.

Further details of the work of St John’s Church Preservation Group can be found on the website including details of how to donate to the restoration funds.

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