New life for Ipswich church as town centre music venue

St Stephens Church, Ipswich.

St Stephen's Church in Arras Square is set to become a new music venue - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A historic Ipswich church is getting a new lease of life as a music venue and community space. 

St Stephen's Church, in Arras Square, is set to become a permanent music venue as a result of a deal between the council and the team behind the Smokehouse in South Street.

The former Tourist Information Centre was used as a music venue during the Sound City Festival last October.

Now the building is to be converted into a cafe/meeting place by day and a music venue for up to 200-225 people by night.

Georgie sings at St Stephens Church for the Sound City Music Festival in Ipswich. Picture: DENISE BR

St Stephens was used as a venue during last year's Sound City Festival. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

A new community interest company (CIC) will be formed by the team behind Out and Loud to run the new venue.

Some work needs to be done to the church - public toilets need to be installed, a new emergency exit needs to be created and there needs to be sound-proofing.

It will be used for a few pop-up events during the spring and early summer of this year - but will then be closed to allow the work to be carried out to allow it to be used on a permanent basis.

Joe Bailey from Out and Loud said everyone connected with the project was very excited at the prospect: "We are hoping to be fully open early next year - this is just the kind of venue the town needs."

Joe Bailey festival director. Sound City on the Cornhill in Ipswich Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Joe Bailey is excited about the future of the music scene in Ipswich. - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

The Smokehouse will remain open and Out Loud are also behind the project to develop the Baths Hall as a music venue.

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Mr Bailey said: "With St Stephens and the Baths Hall there really will be a range of different sized venues in the town to cater for all needs - it would provide places for the kind of bands and musicians that you currently have to go to Norwich or Cambridge to see.

"We are really looking forward to working with the council to get this up and running."

The borough's executive is expected to back the deal with the new CIC at its meeting next week. 

Senior councillor Colin Kreidewolf was one of the driving forces behind last year's Sound City Festival and said that showed the potential for the church.

He said: "It was really successful there and we would love to see that continuing. There do need to be a few changes with the toilets and the soundproofing but this could be a great venue for the town." 

It would also help with the regeneration of  Arras Square which is due to be repaved as part of the Towns Deal funding for Ipswich.