Andrew Lloyd Webber in Aylsham today as part of Church tour

Just Regional
Mar 26, 2015 3 mins read

Music impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber spoke about his passion for making churches community hubs on a visit to Aylsham today.

He was invited to visit the church after he was quoted in the national press that he wanted to get every church in the country on wifi to make them a more integral part of town and country life.

Aylsham Church has had wifi for just over a year but has been making more use of it in the last five months, encouraging people to come into to use the free service. Vicar the Rev Andrew Beane is also planning to use the service with a camera to stream services, weddings, Christenings and funerals so people who cannot get to church are able to take part. He said he was also in talks with local care homes to stream a regular Sunday service to residents.

Lord Lloyd Webber is a founder member of the Open Churches Trust, which has been instrumental in promoting access to these historic buildings.

“Architecture is my first love, other than music, and we must find a way to keep churches open,” he said. He said the aim of the Open Churches Trust was originally to encourage communities to introduce coffee shops and other community activities to bring more people into the churches.

And he said with the introduction of wifi the increased opportunities have become “blindingly obvious”, with ability to tell people all about churches via an App.

“A project like this is so incredibly thrilling and a vitally important,” he said, praising Aylsham for the way it had taken on the new technology.

Norfolk is at the leading edge of wifi in churches with the company WiSpire, which is partly owned by the diocese, already having 40 linked up in the county.

Andrew said: “For us here the opportunity for having wifi in church means we can be part of a whole network providing internet access to the rural communities.” He said it was also helping to make the church more interactive by having QR codes on areas such as the font so people can find out more through videos and information.

The visit tied in with Lord Lloyd Webber being interviewed by the BBC, who came to Aylsham to film for Songs of Praise, which will be broadcast at a later date. They also visited the Monday Market.

Lord Lloyd Webber, who sits as a Conservative member in the House of Lords, said he was hoping the government would continue looking at ways to help churches become centre of community again through funding wifi.

PICTURE: HSR Photography

LEFT TO RIGHT: Andrew Beane, Vicar of Aylsham; Andrew Lloyd Webber and Steve Batson, Operations Director at WiSPIRE

LEFT TO RIGHT: Andrew Beane, Vicar of Aylsham; Andrew Lloyd Webber and Steve Batson, Operations Director at WiSPIRE

More of what's happening in Aylsham