St James was part of this, with broken windows and doors, graffiti daubed on its walls. Its grilled windows and closed door gave the impression that the place was shut. And it nearly was. By 2011, the congregation had dwindled to just 23 people. The church struggled to keep a minister.
Then, Jill MacDonald was asked to be minister-in-charge. She’d been attending the church for 37 years and knew the people and the area well.
The glamorous 70-year-old with purple hair and a flair for interior design decided to take the church on. With less than £1,000 in the church coffers, she applied for grants and loans, and has seen the church redecorated. But she denies that the purple wall in the sanctuary was done to match her hair.
‘People thought that the place was shut for years,’ she says. ‘The grass wasn’t mowed. The glass in the doors had been broken so many times that they were boarded up. The windows were opaque glass with wire over them. However much we cleaned, it looked grotty. It was vile.’
That’s all changed. With redecoration and a welcome sign outside, the atmosphere has changed inside.
‘Painting the church has made such a difference,’ says Jill. ‘The whole feel of the place lifted people’s spirits. I’ve even put pink chandeliers in the toilets, and you don’t see that often. They’re a real talking point.