Renovated church in Ipswich reveals its new look as a music venue

With extensive renovations, we transformed this Ipswich church into a live music venue and performance space.

Opening on Thursday 9 June, St Stephen’s Church has been repurposed from an empty building into an exciting cultural space. The venue now provides a new performance space for Brighten The Corners, part of Sounds East CIC. A weekend of performances marked the venue’s launch as part of the Brighten The Corners Festival 2023, a two-day multi-venue festival, with over 70 artists across five stages.

We renovated the church building, working closely with the property management team at Ipswich Borough Council and the Heritage Officer. We also collaborated with Sounds East who support independent artists and provide jobs and volunteering opportunities.

The aim of the renovation was to create the right environment for music lovers, whilst preserving the features of the Grade II listed church. Inside visitors will find a new bar and free-standing ‘pod’ toilets with details in English hardwood, and a new doorway onto Arras Square, in oak, stone and flintwork.

Project Architect here at NJ Architects, Hugh Bunbury said: “There were many technical aspects in designing this space for its refreshed use, including adding in new services, limiting noise levels and ensuring that the new toilets are almost silent. Many trades and craftsmen were involved, under the main contractor Mixbrow Construction.

“We had a tight programme to finish the building in time for the opening event and we’re especially pleased at how well the new pods and bar seem to fit inside the historic interior. The workmanship is excellent, and we can’t wait to see the stage kitted out for the first bands to perform in this new venue.”

Here at NJ Architects, we have a firm focus on renovating older buildings with care, bringing them back to life where possible. Over the years we have been commissioned to renovate several older buildings with varying aims, including building extensions to add more usable space, altering internal layouts, updating essential services, and restoring areas of historic importance.

Hugh adds: “When we are commissioned to refresh an older building the first step is to evaluate the condition of the building, looking at any constraints and opportunities for improvement. We take time to study the original materials used in the building and match them as closely as possible. In this way we can honour the old alongside the new.”

Renovation of ‘The Church’ was made possible with a total of £450k investment from Ipswich Borough Council and SIGIF Grant funding, which helped transform the space into a 225-capacity music and entertainment venue. The venue will host touring bands and stay open during the daytime as a community café and meeting space.