A CHURCH is fast becoming the heart of Weymouth's performing arts scene.

Hope Church in Trinity Street, near Brewers Quay, hosts a ream of performances and provides a venue for community groups throughout the year.

And with the demise of Weymouth Arts Centre and the expected closure of the Pavilion for redevelopment, the church is set to take a lead role in the art community.

But £150,000 is needed to keep the old harbourside building in working order for Weymouth Operatic Society and Quay Theatre Arts - both based at the church - and scores more.

Geoff King, church elder and chairman of Weymouth Operatic Society, said: "It's built just like a theatre with a foyer and balcony.

"Facilities backstage are fantastic and it has the best acoustics in town.

"Word is spreading but there are a lot of people who don't realise how much is going on here and what a great little venue this is.

"The church has very much become a community asset and we don't want to lose that now."

The Grade II listed building dates from 1862 and needs a new floor, new windows and work on the balcony.

Mr King said: "The floor is our number one priority. If it collapses we're in dire straits, so we are determined to not let that happen."

The church hosts a two-week summer school and concerts throughout the year including Victorian Shownight and Weymouth Folk Festival.

More than £100,000 has been invested in the building over the last five years providing disabled access, toilets, a kitchen and improved backstage facilities.

Now Mr King is trying to raise the remaining £150,000 by approaching the National Lottery and other funding bodies.

He said: "It's not just arts, the building has become a community resource for residents groups, keep-fit classes and a monthly lunch served by students from Wyvern Special School.

"If there is any business or local organisation out there that could help us continue in this way we would be delighted."

For further information telephone Mr King on 01305 775383.