Church Goes from Hymns to Hip Hop; NEW BASE FOR PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE

Article excerpt

Byline: PETER TAYLOR

A CHURCH which looked doomed has been given a hip hop lifeline.

The Gothic spires of Blyth's United Reformed Church are set to rock to the sound of bands and rappers, hip hop artists and break dancers when it becomes the town's first performing arts centre.

Blyth-based North East Music Factory is moving in to the 130-year-old Grade IIlisted church, which was facing closure because only 46 people were coming through its doors to worship.

The Rev Yvonne Tracey said the rap music may be a departure from traditional solemn hymns, but she's confident the building is in safe hands.

She said: "It seems a good way forward for a Victorian church building that was far too big for an ageing congregation to maintain."

Gary Melling, 42, and his wife Anna, a dance teacher, set up the Blyth-based North East Music Factory three years ago, with the help of funding from the Northern Rock Foundation, as a community interest company offering a range of music and dance projects.

It has gone from strength to strength in taking its activities out to community centres, schools and other venues. But it desperately needed its own floorspace which the huge church can provide.

Mr Melling said: "Northumberland does not have any kind of performing arts venue. …