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Andrew Lloyd Webber highlights WiSpire

Thursday 26 March 2015
Lord Lloyd Webber made a whistle stop visit to the Diocese on Thursday 26 March to record an interview for BBC Songs of Praise at St Michael and All Angels Aylsham.

The visit came hot on the heels of a Church Times feature about how the Diocese's WiSpire project is turning parish churches into Wi-Fi hubs for their local community. This cause chimes with Andrew Lloyd Webber's vision for every church in the country to be Wi-Fi enabled.

David Broom, Diocesan Director of Operations, the Revd Andrew Beane, whose Aylsham church is in the WiSpire network and Stephen Batson, WiSpire's Managing Director met Lord Lloyd Webber to explain how the project works.

Commenting on WiSpire, Lord Lloyd Webber said: "I co-founded the Open Churches Trust 25 years ago to help keep churches open. The best way to keep a church open is to have it used. This is so thrilling; Aylsham is a hub attracting people to the church in different ways. It is vitally important to roll out Wi-Fi into churches across the country and it’s a win win situation, also solving rural broadband problems."

David Broom added: "The Church of England is often at the forefront of social action issues and through WiSpire, which is owned by the Diocese of Norwich, we are addressing the digital divide in Norfolk. Even when the superfast broadband roll out is completed, some 10% to 15% of the county, around 40,000 premises, will miss out. This is where WiSpire comes in with its network of wireless broadband antenna on church towers. Currently there are 40 installations and 550 customers. Last year the company gave £4,000 in incentive payments to the churches involved and, while this is relatively modest, we expect that it will grow substantially as the business develops."

Andrew Lawrence, Churchwarden at Beeston next Mileham endorsed the project: "WiSpire has been an invaluable in helping my company operate a business in this area. In addition it also brings money to church funds, so WiSpire really contributes in so many ways to our community."

"The added bonus of being in the scheme is that each church becomes a Wi-Fi hotspot, very relevant to the Gospel message for the 21st century", added David Broom. "Wi-Fi can be completely integrated into worship, events and fundraising activities, as well as giving locals and visitors the opportunity to use their mobile devices and tablets. Every church should be considering joining the scheme."

The Revd Andrew Beane is committed to making the most of his Wi-Fi hub for Aylsham. "For us it's seeing the potential to make the church the centre of community life. Wi-Fi is the 21st century equivalent of medieval bells, or the clock on the church tower. We can live stream services so that people who are unwell at home can join in. We have an interactive tour where visitors scan QR codes with their phone or tablet and at our weekly Church Sale people can be seen actively using their digital devices. We are also very active on social media reaching out to families with young children."

For more information about WiSpire see www.wispire.co.uk

Photo: The Revd Andrew Beane, Lord Lloyd Webber and Stephen Batson (WiSpire)