A parable from the Pennines

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The towns and cities that hug the M62 in West Yorkshire are too often associated with terms such as 'urban decay', 'deprivation' and 'social dysfunction'. It is all too easy to forget that Leeds, Bradford and Halifax were initially created by hard northern graft and gritty determination; they were the powerhouse of the industrial might of Great Britain. So it should not really come as a great surprise to find that Huddersfield has taken it upon itself to become host to the largest Christian church built in the UK in over a century.

The Pastor of the Huddersfield Christian Fellowship, Colin Cooper, pre-empts the question most would want to ask, "Building a new two and half thousand seat church is a rare venture in a time when average church attendance is shrinking. So why build a church rather than buy an existing building?" The answer seems blindingly clear to other members of the Church. "In everything we do we strive for excellence," said Stuart Gladstone one of the church elders. "In twenty years the church has grown from a small meeting hall, to taking over a defunct Comet outlet, to now, this purpose built centre with capacity for two thousand two hundred." The building exudes the confidence of its Church: bright, bold and aspirational with space to grow and develop. The technical remit had to accommodate that ethos and vision to support the contemporary nature of performance that is the fabric of the Church's philosophy. The Church turned to Wigwam Acoustics for the audio section of the installation.

David Orridge, one of the volunteer technicians and a BSc Graduate in Music Technology explains the ideas behind the installation brief: "Huddersfield has strong musical traditions and music is a central part of worship here. The PA, lighting and video system is all specified to make that the best experience we can." As primary contractors for Cathedral House, Tim Mortimer and Phil Goldsworthy from Wigwam specified a Q-Series system; "it's slightly larger than we currently need," Gladstone explained. "But we will grow into it. We only started using the building for services in September 2008 and the congregation has already grown by about one hundred since then."

The main auditorium can accommodate nine hundred seated and perhaps one thousand five hundred standing and has been acoustically treated by John Raper of RK Sound Engineeering. "Acoustically the room is quite dry," said Orridge. "John has done a wonderful job: the balcony front and areas behind the stage are acoustically treated, and the glass balustrade above is angled to put reflected sound up into the absorbent ceiling. That means the PA is already aligned to cover the whole room, and even in the absence of seating up stairs, we experience no problems with reflected sound into the congregation." Besides the flown Q1 and Q10 line array and Q-SUBs above, Mortimer and Goldsworthy placed E3 loudspeakers within the stage fascia for front fills, with E0s beneath the balcony for delay fills. Two Digidesign Mix-racks with Profile surfaces provide sound control; a high spec' pair of desks, but as Orridge said, "Easy enough to train a church member to use, even if they can't fully exploit all the facilities immediately."

There is no doubt that this is a building looking to the future; the entire venue has been networked for sound by Wigwam in preparation for more extensive use of other parts of the Centre. Pastors Colin and Sue Cooper are confident about the Church's future, "A twenty-station simultaneous translation system, which we've used a couple of times already, reflects the truly international flavour of our congregation that now has members from Africa, Finland, France, Poland, Romania, China, Norway and the USA. Come and visit us, a church in Huddersfield that is once again regenerating vigour, vitality and self-belief in our community."

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