Church celebrates 200 years with Shapiro

Helen Shapiro's Walking Back to Happiness went to the top of the charts in the 1960s when she was just 14 and using The Beatles as a support act. Now the singer and actress, who embraced Christianity in 1987, is heading for one to Stoke Ash to help celebrate the 200th anniversary of the founding of its Baptist Church.

You have to be of a certain age to remember the diminutive school-age singer who took the pop scene by storm.

Helen Shapiro's Walking Back to Happiness went to the top of the charts in the 1960s when she was just 14 and using The Beatles as a support act.

Now the singer and actress, who embraced Christianity in 1987, is heading for one of East Anglia's smallest villages to help celebrate the 200th anniversary of the founding of its Baptist Church.

The 230-seat church, at Stoke Ash, near Eye, is expected to be full on June 24 when Ms Shapiro sings some of her greatest childhood hits together with some spiritual pieces and talks to the congregation about her beliefs.


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Another 50 people are likely to squeeze into the nearby village hall where the £5-a-ticket concert will be relayed.

Ms Shapiro has also had a successful acting career, playing a series of roles in London West End theatres, including Sally Bowles in Cabaret.

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In 1993 she published her autobiography, entitled Walking Back to Happiness.

For 17 years, until 2001, Ms Shapiro sang jazz with Humphrey Lyttleton and his Band.

Since 2002 she has been devoting herself to her "gospel outreach" sessions, having taken them to the United States, South Africa and Russia.

Jonathan Steed, Stoke Ash Baptist Church deacon and elder, said the local church was delighted she had agreed to perform in the village.

Contacts made at the former Orchestrelle concerts in Christchurch Park, Ipswich had led to an approach being made via Ms Shapiro's management company, Manna Music, and the request to perform had been granted.

"We are paying her what is more of a nominal fee rather than a commercial amount. She is still able to pull in the crowds," he said.

Stoke Ash Baptist Church was founded on June 24, 1805. The present church building – on the site of the original, beside the old A140 – dates from 1841.

Remaining tickets for the concert can be obtained from Mr Steed on 01449 711121.

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