An Evening with Ken Clarke

Friday January 12th at 1900 – East Bridgford, St Peter’s Church

Secular is one of those words – alongside solidarity, comrade and Brexit – which seems to create equal measures of passion and hate.  So it might seem a strange word to use for an event being staged in a beautiful church.  But that’s exactly what An Evening With Ken Clarke will be.

Inspired by Andrew Lloyd Webber, we’ve pinched one of his lines: The best way to keep a church open is to have it used:

Now Lord Lloyd Webber knows a thing or two about putting on a show, and there’s no way East Bridgford can match that. But we are trying.

Because in communities across the city and county and country there are wonderful, architectural gems which are woefully under-used.

St Peter’s, East Bridgford in Nottinghamshire bucks that trend. It’s always open, stages regular services (as well as the big match days of Christmas, weddings and funerals), is home to two choirs, bell-ringers and has regular ramblers, historians and the village schoolchildren dropping in.

It’s not like the closing credits in my old television career as the ITV studios on Lenton Lane became ever more deserted. What had once been amongst the most creative and exciting places to work, frequented by the biggest names in show business, became empty.  It was simply not used.  Now, thankfully, it’s part of Nottingham University. Which is great – though I still wish the rainbow coloured chimneys were there and the likes of Bob Monkhouse, Woof!, Blockbusters and even Supermarket Sweep could still call it home!

And so with churches, rather than sell them to the highest bidder, some of us would simply like to see them used more. Not secular at the expense of spiritual.  But where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Churches, historically, weren’t only places of worship. They were used for community meetings, business and even fairs! They were usually the largest space in the locality, so they might store food and stage debate.

I saw Kiki Dee at the church in Lowdham, a village near where I live. And I’ve had a drink at the Pitcher and Piano in Nottingham city centre. I’ve enjoyed both, but given a choice I’d rather our heritage is used for concerts and events alongside worship than booze. Better that, surely, than we replace all the priests with publicans?

And so to Ken. The old television presenter in me is wondering what our Nottingham National Treasure will say about Trump? We know his views on Brexit, but following his memorable Alice in Wonderland speech in the Houses of Parliament will he keep the Lewis Carroll theme and liken Jeremy Corbyn to the Caterpillar or Margaret Thatcher to the Queen of Hearts?

Since I’m interviewing him I’m doing my research – and reading his Kind Of Blue.

I’m looking forward to asking him whether, after abolishing the awful and limited choice of spectacles that were the only option on the NHS years ago, he ever considered himself a visionary.

What did we really think of Prime Ministers Heath, Thatcher, Cameron, Brown and Blair (and there’s an interesting, generous comment about Tony and Cherie in his book)?

Did he know about John Major and Edwina Currie?

There’ll be the Nottingham High School jazz band too.  The music will help me out when my attempts to be Michael Parkinson falter.  Though I suspect, with Ken Clarke, my questions will be best when brief and few.

This isn’t a sales pitch! By the time you read this they will all have sold out, I expect. There were about 12 left as I posted this article!

The evening is at St Peter’s in East Bridgford and we’ve limited it to 200 people plus the jazz band.

For £10 (£5 for concessions) there’s a glass of wine and two hours with an historical, precious gem that’s worth preserving. But enough about Ken Clarke. The church is wonderful too.

For further information go to

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