Background to UK Creationist Theme Park Organisation

This one slipped past me from before Christmas:

The latest salvo in creationism’s increasingly ferocious battle with evolution is about to be fired in Lancashire. Not in a fiery sermon preached from the pulpit, but in the form of a giant Christian theme park that will champion the book of Genesis and make a multi-media case that God created the world in seven days.

The AH Trust, a charity set up last year by a group of businessmen alarmed by the direction in which they see society heading, has identified a number of potential sites in the north west of England to build the £3.5m Christian theme park.

The AH Trust (formerly the “Assembly Hall Trust”) has big plans:

The trust claims it already has a number of rich backers who are keen to invest in the project, which will boast two interactive cinemas, a cafeteria, six shops and a television recording studio, allowing it to produce its own Christian-themed films and documentaries.

According to the Observer, one of the supposed backers is rumoured to be Peter Vardy, the millionaire creationist businessman who was given several state schools to run by the UK government a few years ago. I blogged on Vardy here, but I’m doubtful he’s connected with this project.

Various bloggers have been looking into the AH Trust’s background. The Pagan Prattle notes that

The AH Trust’s most recent annual report notes that they have a grand total of £310 in the bank.

The AH Trust is run a certain Peter Jones; the trustees are Margaret Rosemary Jones, Denis Rodenko, Philip Fishwick, Bryan Davis and Alan Wright. The Prattle also notes that its website contains a number of “testimonials” from companies. Here are a few:

Wish you every success in your endeavours. – BAE Systems

Wish you every success in securing further funding. – Centrica plc

Wish you every success in your fundraising event. – James Dyson

Wish you all success with your endeavours. – BAA plc

Wish you every success for the future. – Thomas Cook

These look more like polite responses to letters rather than actual endorsements. A few extra statements are also thrown in for good measure:

The Political Correctness law is an excuse for not printing or promoting Family and Christian values. – David Frost

Details in the “investment” section are also rather perplexing:

The AH Trust is a non-profit organisation…It will cost £3.5M to build a large portal frame studio building complete with adequate car park facilities and we envisage to raise the building costs by various government grants, European funding, American funding and Corporate giving. We have demonstrated to the Television Broadcasting Companies that we can deliver on our objectives and we estimate from the world wide sales of DVDs and Broadcasting fees, the Studio earnings (£4.8M per annum) will be on average ten times the overhead costs.

…The Trustees have introduced an investment package to encourage a suitable investor, or investors, to invest in the purchase of a large portal frame building complete with adequate car park facilities. In simple terms, the investor will own the Television Studio and in turn will enjoy a high percentage of the Studio earnings.

Firstly, how can a “non-profit” organisation and registered charity promise to pass on profits to an investor? Also, how can they positively guarantee earnings of “on average ten times” the overhead costs? Don’t companies seeking investors need to be very careful about promises made in what are called “forward-looking” statements?

There also appears to be a university on the side:

The Television Studio offers fully regionally accredited degree courses in a wide range of subjects set in a dynamic Christian environment.

But accredited by whom? Again, no answer.

Another feature of the website of the AH Trust is that whenever you click on anything a pop-up appears for the Zebra Agency, which describes itself as the “The World’s Most Visited Film and Literary Agency Website”:

We represent a strong list of award winning and successful names and yet remain genuinely committed to the discovery of new talent.

The site is, however, discreet about who these “names” actually are. The Zebra Agency is run from the same address as the AH Trust, and it also runs Omega Productions, a documentary-making company (again, no actual titles given) which also put together the AH Trust website. Peter Jones is the Managing Director of Omega, while Zebra is listed as an “advisor”, which is doubtless very convenient. The Executive Director of Omega, Cara Wooi, helpfully provided one of the “testimonials” for the AH Trust, and she is named as the person to contact on the AH Trust website if you are interested in investing. Omega’s solictitors are given as Platt & Fishwick; doubtless this is connected with the AH Trustee Philip Fishwick. The Omega website also has a few photos of some vaguely famous British TV actors, although no reason is given for their presence on the site.

Omega Productions is described as “an independent production company located between Liverpool and Manchester”. And as it happens, the Zebra Agency used to have section on a company called Standish Films, which was also described as an “independent film production company located between Liverpool and Manchester”. That’s gone, although there remains a non-functional button on the Zebra website tagged with “About Standish Films”. The managing director of Standish was –  yet again – Peter Jones, and he drummed up some publicity in Wigan Today in 2004:

Standish Films is embarking on its latest project in February with a chiller entitled Intruder, but are short of one thing – locations.

Financed from both the private sector and lottery funding, the company needs to find settings for the film which are close together so the cast and crew can get to them easily.

Peter Jones, managing director of Standish Films, said: “We need a doctor’s surgery, a village pub, an office building, a theatre, village hall, a country house and hospital grounds.”

…The hour long thriller tells the story of Kathleen, who is trying to make a life for herself in the squalid surroundings of a bedsit.

An advert in UK Theatre Network added:

Standish Films plan to make a low budget feature film in September. The film I N T R U D E R is a crime thriller filmed in the North West and we are looking for International Actors who reside in the North West.

There are three elderly parts suited for June Whifield, Glenda Jackson and Hannah Gordon, plus lead roles for say Georgia Taylor and Jennifer James.

We are still searching for a strong Director to gel the cast.

Any Actor living in the North West who is interested in the project, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are literary agency acting on behalf of Standish Films and this is a unique opportunity to make this film in the North West.

Cara

admin@zebraagency.co.uk

The film was apparently made, although details are scarce: there is no mention on the IMDB, and the only reference I could find comes from this site, which tells us that the director was a certain Denzil Lobo, and a TV actor named Tim Paley played a police officer. The famous actresses mentioned in the advert do not appear to have taken up the invitation. The website of Standish Films, meanwhile, has disappeared, although Wayback helps us out here. The film was inevitably described as a “unique investment opportunity”:

Poor, shy, Kathleen.  She runs away from home and tries her hardest to make a life for herself in a gloomy one room bed-sit…Her desperate search for a new lover, one that typifies the  sensitive, a caring man, the ones only read about, is fulfilled………..to her horror.

Agnes studied at Oxford University and became a Doctor. She took early retirement and bought the house for her sister Hilda and her to retire in. She believes in the supernatural and holds séances to communicate to the Spirit World.

Unfortunately a spirit with an attitde [sic] problem contacts her. Unwittingly, Agnes has brought an Intruder into this world.

The Intruder begins to slaughter people in the quiet town of Babington and D.I. Burton has the task of catching the serial killer. The question is does she catch the serial killer, or does the killer catch her?

The website also claimed that none other than Jamie Lee Curtis had been cast to play D.I. Burton (perhaps putting on a Manchester accent?). How exactly an occult-themed slasher flick accorded with the plans of the AH Trust to provide an alternative to the “sex and violence” of television is not explained. There is no mention of Intruder on the Omega Productions website, although there is once again the promise of “A Unique Investment Opportunity”.

But what about the actual religious perspective of the AH Trust? Its website has four books for sale; one is a title by the New Zealand-based conspiracy theorist Barry Smith, while another is The Omega Files, which is

A series of articles covering a time period from 9,000 BC to future events. These are scientific based, written by a Christian pen on topics from Astronauts to Freemasons.

There is also a link which seems to have disappeared, but which can be reassembled from a cached version. This mentions the

…Web site of the International Christian Assembly Hall, covering biblical topics including prophecy, world news in prophecy, the Good News and holding International Christian Assemblies…

The phrasing of this is very similar to that used by the United Church of God (I found the phrase “including prophecy…world news in prophecy, the Good News” on related sites), which is one of the groups that traces itself back to Herbert Armstrong. The UCG is considered heterodox by most other Christian groups, although of course similarity of phrasing could just be coincidental. According to a report from the Lancashire Evening Post, Jones says the trust is “non-denominational and covered all religions, including Christian, Catholic, Muslim, and Hindu.” I’m sure the Roman Catholics of Lancashire will be pleased with that listing.

(Hat tip: Pharyngula)

One Response

  1. Ha ha! Great work, Richard.

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