Ipswich’s Smokehouse reveals why lack of venues isn’t problem with town’s live music scene

The Smokehouse, Ipswich's newest music venue at South Street Studios.

The Smokehouse, Ipswich's newest music venue at South Street Studios. - Credit: Archant

Following the closure of Pump and Grind in December, the provision of live music in Ipswich was cast into the spotlight, thanks in no small part to the petitioning of the Suffolk Young Labour Party.

In My Disguise performing at The Smokehouse in Ipswich. Picture: Robbie Stevens

In My Disguise performing at The Smokehouse in Ipswich. Picture: Robbie Stevens - Credit: Archant

But while those concerns may be legitimate, a professional 80-capacity venue with in-house sound engineers, backstage area, bar and stage has quietly been going about its business with remarkable success.

The Smokehouse venue was launched in September as one arm of the South Street Studios complex off Norwich Road – a base for the Out Loud Music community interest company which runs music workshops for young people, community radio, rehearsal space, recording studio, rock school, ‘pop-parties’ and now, a dedicated venue.

With its community ethos and a refreshing passion-over-pounds attitude, the studios and venue are recording a healthy level of business.

So just how is it providing the real live venue gig experience when so many people are decrying the town’s scene?

South Street Studios and The Smokehouse, which will be opening its doors for an open day

South Street Studios and The Smokehouse, which will be opening its doors for an open day - Credit: Archant

“The idea is to have a music and multimedia hub for Ipswich and the wider region accessible to all,” said owner Joe Bailey, 35, on the South Street Studios complex as a whole.

“As part of that, The Smokehouse is available for workshops and private hire, but really comes alive at night and weekends where it provides a platform for bands to create their own events, and we are looking for more promoters to get involved with the space.”

But as Mr Bailey reveals on a tour of the studios and venue, the secret isn’t just in having the space, it’s as much in how you offer it.

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Costs to hire a dedicated venue can easily skyrocket quickly – particularly when it comes to paying for sound engineers and equipment hire. But The Smokehouse charges just £50 for the venue hire, which includes sound engineer, PA and microphone hire and a fully licenced bar – a healthy prospect for any gigging musician, made even easier when a four piece band can roll in and split the venue hire to just £12.50 each.

The Smokehouse, Ipswich's newest music venue at South Street Studios.
Joe Bailey at the venue.

The Smokehouse, Ipswich's newest music venue at South Street Studios. Joe Bailey at the venue. - Credit: Archant

Just as significantly, the bands are encouraged to promote their own events as widely as possible, with 100% of the door receipts on offer, as well as the prestige of having a backstage area, some bar takings and the knowledge that their sound will be looked after properly by someone in the know.

“They get a good deal if they bring people in – they can pay the bands well and pay themselves,” Mr Bailey added.

The ultimate aim is to get more young people organizing and promoting events, with The Smokehouse being able to facilitate those events in a way that means the venue, bands and promoters can all actually make money without detracting from the passion at the heart of what everyone gets involved in music for.

“We get those hungry up-and-coming promoters who are willing to take a risk and put on something different,” Mr Bailey said.

South Street Studios also runs radio shows - Matt Joslin with Malietoa and Viggo Rasmussen at the ve

South Street Studios also runs radio shows - Matt Joslin with Malietoa and Viggo Rasmussen at the venu's open day last year. picture: Nigel Brown - Credit: Archant

“I don’t believe there to be a lack of venues in Ipswich per-se, but I think we need more young people willing to take risks and create a scene around them.”

To help build that scene, Mr Bailey now wants to work alongside other venues in town and promoters to avoid “silly clashes of similar events”, and perhaps more importantly, organise a change of attitude.

“It needs that injection of positivity and connectivity to inspire the next big thing from the area, or inspire a scene within the original music community.

“There’s a lot going on if you look hard – it’s here if you want it.”

The Smokehouse, Ipswich's newest music venue at South Street Studios.

The Smokehouse, Ipswich's newest music venue at South Street Studios. - Credit: Archant

Ed Barnes, 42, radio station manager for IO Radio and local music promoter agrees, and believes the first step is getting people out to an event in the first place.

“As promoters you are increasingly more concerned about checking you are not clashing with the next series of Game of Thrones – you barely ever think about what’s in town, you are more worried about what’s coming out on Netflix.

“But the opportunities are all here – I don’t think in the 20 years I have been in town I have seen a better venue.”

To find out more about South Street Studios and how to get involved, visit the website here.

Rye Shabby performing at The Smokehouse in Ipswich. Picture: Robbie Stevens

Rye Shabby performing at The Smokehouse in Ipswich. Picture: Robbie Stevens - Credit: Archant

South Street Studios also runs radio shows - Matt Joslin with Malietoa and Viggo Rasmussen at the ve

South Street Studios also runs radio shows - Matt Joslin with Malietoa and Viggo Rasmussen at the venu's open day last year. picture: Nigel Brown - Credit: Archant

Verb T performing at The Smokehouse in Ipswich. Picture: Robbie Stevens

Verb T performing at The Smokehouse in Ipswich. Picture: Robbie Stevens - Credit: Archant