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Former MP Ann Widdecombe helps to raise cash for St Mary Madgalene church in Gillingham

By Jenni Horn

Former shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe is backing a fundraising appeal to modernise a Medway church.

The congregation of St Mary Madgalene in Gillingham welcomed the ex-politician and Strictly Come Dancing contestant as it continues its efforts to raise £45,000.

Almost 100 people packed into the church in Gillingham Green to hear the former Maidstone MP talk about her life. She gave her time for free and helped to raise £550 for the appeal.

Sadie Aplin-Fu and Kimberley Plumb present Ann Widdecombe with flowers
Sadie Aplin-Fu and Kimberley Plumb present Ann Widdecombe with flowers

Hilda Aplin, a member of the church involved in the fundraising, said: “Ann kept everyone spellbound for an hour whilst she talked about Strictly Come Dancing, the part she played in the TV reality show 24 hours in the Past, funny anecdotes about life as an MP and her thoughts about being Prime Minister.

“She was very candid and honest in all she said, particularly when she answered questions from the audience. She is such a delightful, amusing lady and a lady in every sense.”

The redesign of the building, familiarly known as the Church on the Green, will include replacing the old pews with comfortable chairs which can be moved around to accommodate groups and activities.

Those behind the project are hoping the church can go back to being at the centre of the community.

The St. Mary Magdalene Church, Gillingham
The St. Mary Magdalene Church, Gillingham

At the launch last year, Mrs Aplin said: “North Gillingham has dramatically changed over the years. It has lost amenities – there is no library, advice centre or cafe within the parish – and the residents, many of them elderly, have to travel to the town centre to access these facilities.

“The area surrounding our church is also one of the most deprived areas in Medway. There is high unemployment. We need to make our building more versatile and welcoming.”

The church has already held a series of events, the next being a concert featuring Songs of Praise presenter and author Pam Rhodes, who is from Gillingham, on Sunday, September 4 at 2.30pm.

Visit www.gillinghamparishchurch.org.uk

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