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Source : 16/05/2002 Northampton Chronicle and Echo

Up to 1,200 Jesus Army members will descend on Northampton's Cannon Cinema to witness plans to transform the art deco venue into a worship centre.

Elders from the controversial religious group are in the final stages of drawing up detailed blueprints with architects for the multi-million pound conversion of one of Northampton's most historic buildings.

The 1,200 strong contingent from across the British Isles will see first-hand the ambitious plans while they are visiting the county for a worship weekend at Cornhill Manor, near Patishall, during the Bank Holiday weekend of the Queen's Golden Jubilee.

The derelict cinema's doors will also be open at the same time to the public on Saturday, June 1, and Monday, June 3, giving people the first opportunity to see inside since its closure seven years ago.

Jesus Army Elder John Campbell, who is also the Nether Heyford-based organisation's communications manager, said: 'It will bring back a lot of memories for people who used to go to the cinema.'

'Everyone goes on about when The Beatles played there, but I actually remember when Morcambe and Wise appeared while it was a theatre. But it's also a chance for us to look to the future and show people what will happen. It is about making the public aware of our plans.'

The first Jesus Army service in the building will be held on an upstairs landing at the cinema this Sunday, before a complete overhaul of the grade two listed building begins.

A false ceiling dating from the 1960s in the entrance foyer has already been removed to reveal the splendour of the art deco architectural designs. Work is also due to start soon to repair the drainage under the building.

Jesus Army members have been clearing out the cinema for the last two years since elders managed to secure a 99-year lease on the 1930s building.

The conversion of the cinema into a worship centre was first mooted three years ago this month, but a series of unexpected delays have plagued religious elders as they battled against red tape.

The Cannon Cinema will be open to the public on Saturday, June 1, between 9am and noon, and Monday, June 3, from 2pm to 5pm.