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Source : 24/06/2002 Northampton Chronicle and Echo

The Jesus Army will be aiming to attract members of Northampton's cafe culture to its worship centre planned on the site of the disused Cannon Cinema.

Elders from the Nether Heyford-based religious group are hoping to capitalise on the town's burgeoning coffee bar scene to attract the public through the doors.

A wave of coffee bars have been opened in Northampton in the last 18 months, as the popularity for a caffeine fix made popular by the Central Perk cafe in the US comedy Friends soars.

Plans have now been revealed for a coffee bar in the Jesus Army's designs for the 1930s art deco former Cannon Cinema.

John Campbell, spokesman for the religious organisation, said: 'We want to appeal to as wide a cross-section of Northampton's population as possible.'

'We want people to feel at home when they come to the worship centre, and hopefully the cafe will provide the right atmosphere for this.'

The Chronicle and Echo revealed last week that work to repair the foundations of the former cinema and neighbouring shops is due to begin within the next month. Building contractors are then due to move in to start the multi-million pound conversion of the building.

But religious leaders of the Jesus Army have had to scale down their dreams after being plagued by a series of delays and escalating costs.

Work on the conversion had been due to begin almost two years ago after the Jesus Army secured a 99-year lease of the historic building in March 2000.

Mr Campbell said: 'The original scheme was far too expensive and we have had to reign back a little bit.'

'Things are moving along slowly and we hope to get quotes in from builders soon. After that, we are hopefully looking at builders coming on site by the end of the summer.'

The worship centre will be an epicentre of Jesus Army worshippers from across the country, and will include counselling services and a training base.