Video/Gallery: Three years on from devastating arson attack, 40 youngsters help clean St Michael’s Church in Ipswich to get it ready for restoration

The scene of destruction at St Michael's Church, Ipswich The scene of destruction at St Michael's Church, Ipswich

Monday, March 3, 2014
1:47 PM

From the ashes of one of Ipswich’s biggest eye-sores a project has begun which aims to give back to the community an open and shared space.

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A team of young volunteers packed into the site of the former St Michael’s Church in Ipswich on Saturday in order to begin the process of cleaning and transforming the building.

The church building in Upper Orwell Street was devastated by an arson attack in 2011, leaving in tatters plans by Muslim education charity JIMAS to turn the building, which had been out of use for ten years, into a community centre.

JIMAS paid £350,000 for the site, but the building had been uninsured and plans to restore it were put on hold.

Now Mr Manwar Ali of JIMAS and a hardworking team of youngsters, including students at Suffolk One college, have begun the process of cleaning the site in order to get the project going again.

The plan is to have the church and parish hall in use by the end of this year, and Mr Ali predicts the project will cost between £250,000 and £300,000.

“Today is the day where for the very first time we’ve got our 40 volunteers together to help us clean out the place, which includes the interior of the buildings, the church and the parish hall, and the outside as much as possible,” he said on Saturday.

“Our ambition is that the community in Ipswich will have an input in deciding what it becomes but it should be something useful, so that everyone who lives in this town will have not only a place that they will benefit from the facilities, but also feel that they can do something with it in terms of suggesting ideas and actually enacting those ideas.

“It’s a very big task, it’s a cut down version of the original vision we had of a grander place with bigger facilities, money is the main issue but otherwise our aim is to finish the church hall and possibly the church by the end of this year if not by spring next year.”

Among those who were clearing the site on Saturday was Ghulam Solker, an engineering teacher at Suffolk One who is interviewed in our video above. He invited a number of students to come and help with the building’s restoration.

Ashton Meadows is one of the students, he said: “My teacher Ghulam suggested it to me as a way to put something back into the community and make a difference. I’ve been doing a lot of shovelling, moving pews around and clearing it out, putting all the debris into skips.

“It’s been really good; I’ve loved every minute of it. I haven’t done anything like this before, but now that I have I’d like to do it again. This is my first day here, if they asked me I’d happily do it again.”

The volunteers have thanked Jackson Engineering for lending equipment, staff at Ipswich Borough Council for their support and driving the skip, and Suffolk One.

21 comments

  • Quite sad these comments. I've attended numerous jimas events and Manwar Ali is completely not what some of you are saying. I also know for a fact that the steering committee for this church is still open to all people and there are many christians and other faith people on it. Why don't all the big-talkers here join the steering committee and ensure that all of these fears of sharia and jihad don't get realised? It's easy to talk big from behind a computer screen, but truth is none of you who insult and hate so much will do a fraction of the back-breaking work these admirable people of different beliefs have done so far and will continue to do for the good of the community. I shall continue to respect and admire the work done by jimas, and I really enjoy their community events (which always are open to anyone) and are very thought provoking. They are some of the most patriotic brits I've ever met in fact. You guys are talking about tearing Ipswich down and they are fighting without being paid to save and rejuvenate it for everyone. Shame on you.

    Report this comment

    Ipswich Heart

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • PC Plod and Steve Blake, what you say is completely true of course and only a fool would deny it. I must say I am very surprised indeed to see that your comments have been printed. The right-on censor must be having a day off. Keep up the good work.

    Report this comment

    Gobby

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

  • Its amazing what a few people can do when they put their minds to it and I hope it continues to develop in the same way! Look forward to see how things progress. I say ignore the narrow minded people who want to put barriers in the way of good stuff. Would love to know more about the plans for such a lovely building. Also wonder if Jimas have considered doing an open air concert or play there in the summer for fundraising purposes, how lovely would that be! is there anyway people can suggest ideas for fundraising and uses once the community centre is up and running? am sure there are lots of people who would like to see this do well, of all faiths and walks of life in ipswich. All the best :-)

    Report this comment

    AliceM

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • I suggest to Ipswich Heart and other blind supporters of Jimas that you check out their website whose ''main objective is to facilitate recurring charity (sadaqa jariyya) for Muslims and this underpins all activities without any compromise". By all means refurbish this wonderful building but don't ask or expect Kafirs (unbelievers, infidels) to help or support you in promoting your faith.

    Report this comment

    marbleov

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • At least someone is making an effort with a building in Upper Orwell Street. Maybe the high street bank that owns the old carpet shop opposite might feel compelled to do something about a building they've left to rot for over 20 years...

    Report this comment

    Mister Cynical

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • The whole of that Road want demolishing and rebuilding , nearly all of the building's are past their sell by date

    Report this comment

    MIGUEL100

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • A quick Google search of JIMAS reveals that organisation's real beliefs and values. Please don't insult the intelligence of the English people and indeed other recent newcomers who live and work in Ipswich and surrounding areas that this organisation is anything but a proselyting front for radical Islam. Any Star reporter with a desire to scale the ladder would do well to investigate this so-called charitable organisation.

    Report this comment

    Steve Blake

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • And you are a MUSLIM group which seeks to promote the grace of Allah. Please be honest about your intentions.

    Report this comment

    Steve Blake

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • Ok so we have another google investigator! Blind supporter? Of course I have seen the website (a bit outdated I have to say), and I had a few concerns, but Mr Ali is a very approachable man and he explained anything I wanted to know about a few years ago. Why don't you speak to them? I don't understand all the muslim words, but that english part that you picked out clearly means the opposite of what you are claiming. From the way I see it, it means that their charity relies on recurring muslim donations - which pays for everything they do - a few sentences down it explains this. And in the "about us" page they clearly say everything is for muslims and non-muslims. So you are now lambasting the muslims for giving ongoing charity that can help people of other faiths or none? Your post really backfired on you... And now it seems as if I am defending muslims, but in actual fact I am just trying to defend a good cause with some rare happy news about our community. Nice to read your post AliceM, at least there is one other positive person reading this! :-)

    Report this comment

    Ipswich Heart

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • Well said PC Plod and if some readers think he is being a bit alarmist well worth reading or re-reading the parable of the camel in the tent.

    Report this comment

    Steve Blake

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • So the police have yet to find out who did it. Looks like they should take a look at this lot to kick start their investigation. Having remained empty for so long before it was sold and then destroyed someone clearly didn't want the building to come back into use. What was the motive. What a shameful waste.

    Report this comment

    amsterdam81

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • So glad to see something finally happening. That fine old building was one of the few saving graces of a shabby street in a shabby part of town. Quite frankly, the whole 'mint quarter' needs razing to the ground and grassing over now, so as much as it's good that the building is getting attention, its probably too little, too late

    Report this comment

    Sentinel Red

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • Thank you for proving my point Steve Blake... you do google searches to find out things. oooooooh - you top detective you! I'll let you in on a secret - We "real people" go out in the "real world" and meet "real people" and do "real work". You should try it sometime. You may just find some joy and positivity to offset all the alarmist, creeping, radical, proselyting (seems you even invent new words to vent your frustration hehehe) feelings. And if they are able to make people happy - which is very apparent from the results of their events, then who cares what religion they are? I've never felt the need to convert even though I have attended many of their community events, and I have never seen them "force" anyone either. Are you saying that people should not have the right to choose religion? Alas, it is not I who is "insulting the intelligence of English people and indeed other recent newcomers who live and work in Ipswich and surrounding areas" as you put it. You seem to think that the mere presence of other muslims will cause us to become muslim. I think we English people have more intelligence than you give us credit for. And if we CHOOSE to, we can change to whatever religion or no religion that we want. Jimas or no jimas. But we are the ones who did NOT fix up the church for many years after the COE abandoned it. Jimas are at least doing something about it. WELL DONE JIMAS AND THE VOLUNTEERS!

    Report this comment

    Ipswich Heart

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • A quick Google search of JIMAS reveals that organisation's real beliefs and values. Please don't insult the intelligence of the English people and indeed other recent newcomers who live and work in Ipswich and surrounding areas that this organisation is anything but a proselyting front for radical Islam. Any Star reporter with a desire to scale the ladder would do well to investigate this so-called charitable organisation.

    Report this comment

    Steve Blake

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • What community would he be talking about , The only community that congregate round there is muslim's

    Report this comment

    MIGUEL100

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • Its amazing what a few people can do when they put their minds to it and I hope it continues to develop in the same way! Look forward to see how things progress. I say ignore the narrow minded people who want to put barriers in the way of good stuff. Would love to know more about the plans for such a lovely building. Also wonder if Jimas have considered doing an open air concert or play there in the summer for fundraising purposes, how lovely would that be! is there anyway people can suggest ideas for fundraising and uses once the community centre is up and running? am sure there are lots of people who would like to see this do well, of all faiths and walks of life in ipswich. All the best :-)

    Report this comment

    AliceM

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • Thank you for proving my point Steve Blake... you do google searches to find out things. oooooooh - you top detective you! I'll let you in on a secret - We "real people" go out in the "real world" and meet "real people" and do "real work". You should try it sometime. You may just find some joy and positivity to offset all the alarmist, creeping, radical, proselyting (seems you even invent new words to vent your frustration hehehe) feelings. And if they are able to make people happy - which is very apparent from the results of their events, then who cares what religion they are? I've never felt the need to convert even though I have attended many of their community events, and I have never seen them "force" anyone either. Are you saying that people should not have the right to choose religion? Alas, it is not I who is "insulting the intelligence of English people and indeed other recent newcomers who live and work in Ipswich and surrounding areas" as you put it. You seem to think that the mere presence of other muslims will cause us to become muslim. I think we English people have more intelligence than you give us credit for. And if we CHOOSE to, we can change to whatever religion or no religion that we want. Jimas or no jimas. But we are the ones who did NOT fix up the church for many years after the COE abandoned it. Jimas are at least doing something about it. WELL DONE JIMAS AND THE VOLUNTEERS!

    Report this comment

    Ipswich Heart

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • Steve Blake & Mr Cynical, your comments are racist, inflammatory and totally unnecessary. If you bothered to read the report in it's entirety you will notice that the owners have offered the residents of Ipswich a say in what the buildings use should be. There is no mention of it being an Islamic Community centre only. It is the Little England mentality of people like you that cause racial tensions to become worse than they already are. Perhaps you would be happier for the building to remain the eyesore it is and then you will have something else to moan about!! If you can't be constructive in your comments then please just be quiet.

    Report this comment

    IMP

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • Why would they want a Christian church???

    Report this comment

    C Smith

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • I fail to see why the council bulldozed the workable Caribbean Assoc building a 100 yds away, when this church could have been flattened and turned into the carpark.

    Report this comment

    Sarky Sage

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • ... One of your famous google searches tell you that? :-) MUST be true then hehehe... Am I trying to convert you right now? But seriously - my suggestion to you Steve Blake - go and meet these people. They are not what you think. Even better, get involved. I am going to find out when the next volunteer day is because I want to be part of this. I really hope to see and meet you there.

    Report this comment

    Ipswich Heart

    Monday, March 3, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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