A SCHEME to make North Yorkshire churches more welcoming is celebrating its first anniversary.

Later this month, the North Yorkshire Church Tourism Initiative will be holding a conference in Harrogate to look at ways of making further improvements.

One of the key speakers at the conference, backed by the Yorkshire Tourist Board, in St Aidan's Church of England High School, on March 29, will be the Reverend Eric Norris, advisor on tourism to the Archbishop of York, the Right Reverend David Hope.

Mr Norris recently carried out a study of church tourism and is a former rector of St Mary's Church, Thirsk, which attracts more than 10,000 visitors a year.

Organiser Zoe Kemp said: "The theme of our conference is making our buildings sing. We will look at how we can bring our church buildings to life for visitors who often come when they are empty and seemingly devoid of activity."

People involved in the Two Dales Christian Heritage Project in Swaledale and Arkengarthdale will explain how they have organised themed events.

They will also talk about a their successful open churches weekend in September which attracted visitors from across the country.

The event will be repeated in June.

Henrietta Royot, development manager for the Heritage Lottery Fund in Yorkshire, will explain what money is available to churches and which projects will attract support.

For details, call (01977) 614764.