A one million pounds plan to transform a Totnes church, where Damon Albarn from Blur once played, into a community space is gathering pace.

“Uplift!” is the name of the campaign to turn St Mary’s Church into a space suitable for today and the future.

The name comes from the fact that every £100 raised unlocks £900 of grant money.

St Mary’s is a medieval building and the old Priory church has features dating back over 500 years.

It is also the hub of the High Street with concerts and cafes, workshops and displays alongside a full programme of services and spiritual activity. 

Recently it hosted a peace event of talks and music from Israeli and Palestinian speakers and performers.

Artists such as Blur frontman Damon Albarn have performed there and there are festivals and community events all year round. 

Everyone loves using it and visiting it. 40,000 people a year walk through the doors. It is a challenge though. The heating doesn’t work, the pews restrict use of the space, there are minimal food and drink options and then there’s an issue with the toilets and the lack of accessible facilities. 

All that needs to change and St Mary’s, with the local community, is on the verge of a major grant of £960,000 to do it - solar energy, environmentally sound heating, remodelling the interior to retain the heritage but give space for activities, refreshment areas and accessible toilet.

But it needs the local funding support to make this grant happen and it needs it now.

The total cost of the ‘Uplift’ Project is £1.63m and the target is to raise £100,000 from local sources.

Every £100 raised unlocks £900 of grant money.

Fr Jim Barlow said:

“This has been a long time in gestation and hard work fixing the heating and making improvements.

“We are installing an electric heating system that is carbon neutral and is a first for Devon.

“We have non-glowing infra red chandelier heaters and the best thing is we can zone them depending on the activities going on.

“It otherwise is very expensive and difficult to heat the whole building.”

For more information visit: https://www.stmarystotnes.org/