Redundant gym and former swimming pool transformed into gig venue

The former Baths Hall in Ipswich, which was more recently The Gym Ipswich

The former Baths Hall in Ipswich, which was more recently The Gym Ipswich - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Legendary venue The Baths Hall - which once hosted Led Zeppelin - is set to stage concerts again as part of the Sound City Ipswich festival.

The former St Matthew's Baths in Civic Drive doubled as a swimming pool and a concert hall in the 1960s and 70s. Boards were laid over the pool for visits by top names including rock gods Led Zeppelin.

It has been standing empty since The Gym Ipswich, which was based there until last year, closed permanently following the coronavirus lockdown - but it now looks set for a new lease of life.

Sound City co-director and programmer Marcus Neal

Sound City co-director and programmer Marcus Neal - Credit: Archant

Sound City co-director and programmer Marcus Neal said: "‘It’s a real thrill to be able to use The Baths as a venue. It’s a brilliant space to see bands – and it has such an incredible history of influential, iconic and, well, legendary bands performing."

He added there are hopes it could become a regular venue once again following the festival, which will run from October 1-2.  

"As things stand, we are also looking at holding further gigs after the festival. We’re currently looking at about eight between now and the end of the year.

"If all goes well, we hope to make it a regular venue for touring bands, helping to put Ipswich back on the UK’s music map. Watch this space!"

The former Baths Hall building, at the corner of Civic Drive and St Matthew's Street in Ipswich

The former Baths Hall building, at the corner of Civic Drive and St Matthew's Street in Ipswich - Credit: Google

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Work has begun to bring the building up to modern health and safety standards, including widening the fire escapes and upgrading the power and data lines.

The building will also be decorated internally with a new stage and bar built, and sound and light systems installed.

Mr Neal said: "I must thank Ipswich Borough Council and landlords the Hubbard Family Trust for all their help and support."

Led Zeppelin at the Baths Hall, Ipswich, in November 1971

Led Zeppelin at the Baths Hall, Ipswich, in November 1971 - Credit: Nigel Rea

The Led Zeppelin show in November 1971 took place just a week after the release of the band’s fourth album, generally known as Led Zeppelin IV - which has gone on to sell over 37 million copies worldwide.

Many other bands and singers also played there, including Rod Stewart, as a member of Steampacket, Deep Purple, The Who, Cream featuring Eric Clapton, The Move, The Sweet and Status Quo. 

Filming for influential 60s TV show Ready Steady Go! took place and other events held there included meetings, flower shows, wrestling tournaments, cookery demonstrations and the preaching  of the Rev Ian Paisley.

he rock band, The Move at St Matthew's Baths Hall, Ipswich in 1968

he rock band, The Move at St Matthew's Baths Hall, Ipswich in 1968 - Credit: Archant

Sound City Ipswich will feature a hand-picked multicultural mix of upcoming and established bands.

Headline acts include US songwriter BC Camplight and his band, Mercury Award nominated Porridge Radio, London rapper TrueMendous, Ghanaian singer and percussionist Falle Nioke, 6Music darlings Working Men’s Club, black feminist punks Big Joanie and Ipswich’s own rap star, Parris Robbo.

There will also be local and regional talent performing across the festival, including a stage hosted by BBC Introducing.

St Stephen's Church, the former Ipswich Tourist Information Centre, is set to be the main festival hub, with a cafe bar, live music and late-night DJs.

Other festival venues will include The Corn Exchange, a free outdoor stage on the Cornhill,  and a welcome reopening for The Smokehouse after its long closure during the pandemic, 

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere said: "Ipswich Baths Hall was an iconic music venue in the 60s and 70s, and provided some great memories for people who went to gigs there.

"I’m really pleased Ipswich Borough Council has been able to provide funding and support to help get The Baths rocking again for a whole new generation of music lovers to experience."    

Martin Reader of the Hubbard Family Trust said the trust was "delighted to work with Sound City Ipswich on this exciting live music venue. It will be wonderful to see the property revert back to its original roots as a building of entertainment."

Sound City Ipswich is supported by Ipswich Borough Council and Arts Council England. The Ipswich Star is a media partner for the event.

For full details and to book tickets, visit the festival website.
 

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