Work starts to transform St Stephen’s Church into music venue

Published20th December 2022

Work to transform St Stephen’s Church in Arras Square (near the Buttermarket Shopping Centre) in Ipswich into a live music venue has started this week.

The church, owned by Ipswich Borough Council, is being converted into a live music and community entertainment venue for up to 225 people. During the daytime there will be a café and meeting place for like-minded creatives, students, and the wider community with the ability to host events and exhibitions. With a range of live music performed in the evenings.

The work to the Grade II* listed building is being carried out by local contractor, Mixbrow Construction in collaboration with Historic England (as statutory consultees on the project).

The works include installing new toilets and emergency exits, adding soundproofing, sound equipment and other facilities such as a stage area and café/bar area.

Suffolk Public Sector Leaders have supported the project with £300,000 from the Suffolk Inclusive Growth Investment Fund (SIGIF).

Once complete, the venue will be run by Sounds East CIC who will support independent artists and provide new jobs and volunteer opportunities to staff the venue.

Sounds East CIC is a not-for-profit organisation formed by the team behind Out Loud Music who operate the Smokehouse on South Street and organised Sound City events in 2019 and 2021. The work is set to complete in spring 2023 and doors will open in the run up to ‘Brighten The Corners Festival’ in June.

Councillor David Ellesmere, Leader of Ipswich Borough Council and Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Property, says:

“This is an exciting development for our town, offering a new meeting venue by day and music venue by night for the benefit of all Ipswich residents. It’s great to see this important church building in the centre of our town being brought back to life as a community space – bringing people together to enjoy music.”

Joe Bailey, Director of Sounds East CIC, adds:

“The Sound City Ipswich festivals and our ongoing events at The Baths and The Smokehouse have proved the need for more live music infrastructure and cultural spaces in Ipswich. We’re delighted to help create what we think will be a game changing, iconic venue for the town.”

Karen Chapman, Partnership Manager at Suffolk Growth adds:

“We are excited to see the start of this innovative repurposing of St Stephen’s church in the heart of Ipswich and welcome the additional economic impact the use of local contractors will bring. 

This is the type of regeneration project that Suffolk Public Sector Leaders anticipated from the Suffolk Inclusive Growth Investment Fund delivering long term, sustainable growth, and employment opportunities. We look forward to the launch of a vibrant new cultural and live music centre in 2023 that will boost the visitor and night-time economy in Ipswich and across Suffolk as a whole.”