A MALVERN church is launching itself as a performance venue with its inaugural arts festival this summer.

The festival features big names including Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and country music star Hank Wangford, and tickets will be going on sale this Friday, March 15.

The festival is the brainchild of Rev Phillip Johnson, who took over as vicar of the Malvern Link with Cowleigh group of churches last year.

Before he was ordained, he was an actor, a drama teacher at a major London school and managing director of his own theatre company for many years.

He said: "We’ve redesignated St Peter’s, Cowleigh Bank, into an arts church. It will still be a fully-functioning church but we’re creating an intimate and atmospheric venue there."

There have already been a number of events held there, but June's festival is intended to put it on the map as an arts venue.

Malvern Town Council last week agreed to give £2,000 to help festival organisers create a website and other administrative tasks, and for funding volunteer training.

The festival opens on Friday, June 14, with a ticket-only party, featuring musical special guests, a fundraising auction of signed merchandise and limited edition beer from the Malvern-based Friday Beer Company.

The festival also has a number of workshops covering drumming, printmaking, screenprinting, stained glass and letterpress, and an exhibition of artwork from the parish's three primary schools.

Tickets will be available on the church website or via Eventbrite.