Radio 4 show to focus on Belper chapel

Helen Baxendale and Sue MacFarlane recording Radio 4 programme, Open Country.
Helen Baxendale and Sue MacFarlane recording Radio 4 programme, Open Country.

A Belper activist and church-goer is to be one of the stars of a BBC radio programme which will air on Radio 4 in August.

Sue MacFarlane, who was the local Green Party candidate at the last general election, took part in and episode of Open Country, a programme which focuses on the people and wildlife that shapes the landscape of the British Isles.

She talked to the programme’s guest presenter, TV star Helen Baxendale, about the history of the Unitarian chapel she attends and issues affecting the countryside in the Amber Valley town.

She said: “They just wanted to know what it was like to live in Belper - I told them I love it.

“Helen Baxendale was fabulous - really down to earth and really interested in what we were doing.

“One of the things they were interested in was that our church is currently the only place of worship in Derbyshire which offers marriage services for same-sex couples.

“We also went into the crypt, because they said it would sound atmospheric, and they recorded me singing as well, although I’m not sure how much of it will end up in the final programme.

“I also talked to them about the struggle we have in preserving our green spaces with constant applications for development on greenfield and greenbelt sites like the recent one on Bessalone Hill.”

The church, which is on Field Row in Belper, was built in 1788 by Jedediah Strutt, who also built the town’s iconic mill.

“The production team said they thought it was interesting that Belper has a history of being innovative which continues to this day,” she added.

“And it is true - Belper is full of people who make things happen.”

The episode will be on BBC Radio 4 in August.