Unique experiences go under the hammer for National Churches Trust

A private tour personally led by a peripatetic Python and a behind-the-scenes, all-access experience that will let you sit in on a live broadcast out of the Classic FM studios in London's Leicester Square. These are just two of the items that form part of a collection of special experiences bidders will be able to make an offer on thanks to an online auction being held this month.

The National Churches Trust's 2024 auction "Going, Going, Saved!" will raise much-needed funds for its work helping historic churches across the UK remain open, and ensuring they remain in a state of good repair for years to come.

"Churches are wonderful places that are so important to so many people. As places of worship, as places for quiet reflection, and as community hubs, church buildings are vital. But the future of our churches is also the biggest heritage crisis that the UK faces," Claire Walker, chief executive of the trust, said.

Taking place against the backdrop of a General Election campaign, the trust hopes the auction will keep the need to protect the nation's rich religious heritage in the public's and political parties' minds. While the auction remains live, prizes will be continually added which means it will be vital to keep checking in to avoid the risk of missing out on something spectacular.

Bids are currently being taken for an item that will see Monty Python star, comedian, and writer Sir Michael Palin and his son, Will Palin, take the successful bidder and up to three guests, on a private tour around Sheerness Dockyard Church in Kent.

Located on the Isle of Sheppey, this beautiful 19th Century Grade II* Listed church was devastated by fire in 2001. Completely gutted by the blaze, it is now fully restored to its former glory. With Will Palin having overseen the restoration work on this magnificent church, the visitors will hear first-hand stories of the project as they take a tour of the building, afterwards continuing over lunch with the Palins.

Another item going under the hammer is attracting a great deal of interest from bidders eager to be part of a significant place in the history of radio. Starting with a private tour of Global Studios in London's Leicester Square, the successful bidders will then join radio and TV presenter Alexander Armstrong over the course of an hour as he presents live on Classic FM. Home to some of the UK's best-loved radio stations, including Capital and Heart, bidders will be able to see up close how shows are recorded and produced.

And, given the purpose behind the auction, any collection of items would be incomplete if it didn't offer a unique opportunity to reflect on the divine. Lots include private tours of the nation's treasured cathedrals and churches, including St Paul's and Westminster Abbey in London, and St George's Chapel, Windsor, the scene of many royal weddings.

The successful bidder of another lot will get to wander through the Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals of Sheffield on a bespoke tour led by Songs of Praise presenter Richard Taylor followed by lunch and signed copies of his book.

The trust has asked supporters to help drive the growth of the project by bidding for items themselves and spreading the word among friends and family, and their local churches and communities.

The trust hopes that by doing so they will create momentum that will help drive the continued support of their local churches, and keep protection of Britain's religious heritage on the political agenda during the General Election campaign.