Villagers face ruin after church musical fails
The residents of a village in Nottinghamshire are among those who lost hundreds of thousands of pounds after a religious musical organised by a local church collapsed with huge debts. Just three weeks before the start of a nationwide tour, the Christian musical Heaven on Earth, based on the story of Adam and Eve, went bust with debts of £2.6 million. Some of those who donated to the production now face losing their homes.
THE residents of a village have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds in savings after a musical organised by their church, which was set for a starstudded arena tour, collapsed.
Members of the congregation of The International Church said they were told that by donating they were “giving to God”, but some now face losing their homes after the tour was cancelled.
Heaven on Earth, based on the story of Adam and Eve, grew from the “dream” of a local church into a glitzy production starring Kerry Ellis and Hugh Maynard and featuring Russell Watson, the tenor, as the voice of God. But just three weeks before the start of a six-month nationwide tour, which included shows at Manchester and Wembley arenas, the show went bust with debts of £2.6million. It is believed to be one of the largest ever debts in relation to a collapsed theatre production.
Around 30 people in the village of Mansfield Woodhouse, Notts, are owed roughly £500,000 between them. Some are said to have remortgaged their homes to help the independent church fund the show.
Yessika Oakley, 34, told the BBC that her family donated thousands towards the project as the church was asking for large sums to fund the production. “Because they did it in the name of God, they were put under the pressure that if you didn’t give, you’re not being faithful and God isn’t going to be very happy with you,” she said.
“What’s wrong with all of it is that it was somebody’s dream. And it’s OK to have a dream, but don’t use other people’s money for it,” she added.
Audrey Beardal, 80, who claimed that she was driven to a bank and asked to take out £3,000 in savings, said that as a result of the collapse of the show some villagers had to sell their homes.
Another former member of the congregation, Lindsey, said church leaders thought it would be “a God-given tool to win nations, to change the world”.
Members of the cast, those involved in the production and the arenas are also owed money, documents show.
Paul Fleming, from Equity, the actor’s union, said it was unusual for a production of its size to collapse at the last minute. He said it was “an incredibly peculiar” bet “for people who have never produced a show before”.
Despite the congregation being told that God would provide the rest of the money needed, the show ran out of cash in late 2017 and the company set up to produce it, Eden International Productions, went into administration.
The International Church has also gone bust. Because both organisations are being liquidated it is unlikely that many of the creditors will see their money returned.
Neither the church leaders nor directors of the production approached by The Daily Telegraph were willing to discuss the claims. One of the directors told the BBC that they were sorry for those who had lost money but insisted it was donated on a “free will” basis.
Russell Watson, the tenor, was due to play the voice of God in Heaven and Earth, a musical organised by a village church