Conversion of Ipswich church into music venue gets major boost

St Stephen's Church in Ipswich

St Stephen's Church in Ipswich, where plans for a music venue have been put forward - Credit: Jason Noble/LDRS

Plans to turn an empty Ipswich church into a vibrant new music venue have secured £300,000 of local grant funding to carry out the necessary upgrades.

Ipswich Borough Council announced plans last month for St Stephen’s Church to become a 225-capacity venue after agreeing a 20-year lease with Out Loud Music, which runs the South Street Studios and Smokehouse venue in town.

Now it has been confirmed that £300,000 from the Suffolk Inclusive Growth Investment Fund (SIGIF) has been agreed to carry out the upgrade and modernisation works for it to become a community cafe and artistic working space during the day and a venue for the arts by night.

A spokesperson from Suffolk Growth said: “This is another excellent project that Suffolk Public Sector Leaders have supported with this fund. These innovative projects are making a significant contribution to our economic recovery, with more to be announced across the county later in 2022.

“There has already been great success with the SIGIF funded South Street studio development in Ipswich and the Sound City festival.

“Importantly, the Ipswich Live project is integrated with the Town Deal programme adding further value and will be a key driver of the vibrant music and cultural scene in the town centre.

“We are pleased to be backing a sector that has been hit hard throughout the pandemic to bounce back, respond creatively to the town centre challenges and boost the day and night-time economy, as well as the wider visitor economy.”

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The church had previously been home to the Tourist Information Centre until its closure in 2020 as part of the council’s emergency budget plans.

It made a comeback in the autumn last year as one of the venues for the successful Sound City Ipswich two-day festival, which demonstrated the space could work as a venue.

Some of the work needed includes provision of toilets and soundproofing, as well re-positioning the font, putting in additional electric outputs, and installing new heating.

The SIGIF was launched by Suffolk Public Sector Leaders and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership to help support economic recovery projects, and has included pledges for retail pods for start-ups in Brandon and Bury St Edmunds, as well as pop-up innovation hubs in Sudbury and Stowmarket among other schemes.