A HISTORIC but dormant town centre church is all set for an encore – after being saved from its final curtain by a Stourbridge acting group.

Side By Side Theatre Company Stourbridge hopes to complete the purchase of the vacant St John’s United Reformed Church – which faces the town’s ring road – later this week.

The deal has been bankrolled by local businessman Nick Schwartz, whose two children are both involved with Side By Side, which gives learning disabled actors the chance to tread the boards.

The award-winning group has been run from several venues but will now be based solely at St John’s – and they are keen for the church to once again become a focal point for community usage.

Side By Side hopes to have the venue operational by this time next year but with Mr Schwartz’s donation having been used to purchase the building, they need community support to fix it up.

Susan Wallin, artistic director, said: “We want to expand it and offer opportunities to other people and groups. We want to make it a centre of excellence.

“But we know it will take an awful lot of work to smarten it up. We plan to put in new kitchens, new toilets, really tidy it up.

“We are hoping that there are tradesmen out there interested in helping us out, like on the TV show DIY SOS.

“We are hoping that the people of Stourbridge will be willing to come along and help us out with bits and pieces to get the place up and running.”

St John’s is a Grade II listed building, which means alterations cannot be made to its exterior, but the group is planning a refurbishment inside, including new toilets, kitchens and more.

Susan’s husband, Derek Lidington, vice-chair and trustee of Side By Side, added: “Plant life has been allowed to grow outside so the site looks a bit sad at the moment but the potential is there.

“The building is 160 years old so, considering that, it doesn’t look in that bad shape – yes, there are a few wrinkles and cobwebs but nothing major.

“We hope to get it up and running and looking cared for within 12 months and open it up to other community groups too.

“We will also be contacting groups that used to use it before it shut down to see if they want to use the venue again.”

The church, which dates back to 1860, used to house a host of community groups but closed in January 2017 after its congregation dwindled to single figures.

Offers of in excess of £50,000 were invited when it was initially put up for sale.

Any volunteers or tradesmen interested in helping out with the St John’s revamp can call Derek on 07973 128466.