Written by Dee Nessling
Music and art play such a vital role in our culture and community spaces. It connects us with the world and people around us, and with the current ongoing economic unrest, supporting the creative arts scene has become even more crucially important.
Through our youth music projects, we know how important the local music scene is. That’s why we’re shining a spotlight on some of the Ipswich venues making community magic happen.
This week is the UK’s annual Independent Venue Week – a seven day event showcasing and celebrating local independently owned art and music venues all around the UK. With over two hundred venues taking part each year, there truly is something for everyone to enjoy, and organisers are committed to making each event a safe environment for both staff and patrons.
Some of the local venues in Ipswich taking part in this celebration that we recommend checking out include;
St Stephen’s Church
Located central to the town centre, this beautiful, historic church building has recently become one of the newest venues run by our friends at Brighten the Corners. After receiving a £450k investment from SIGIF Grant funding, the Grade II listed church has been renovated and received improvements to its facilities, and was opened officially as a music and arts venue last Spring, but it still maintains its rustic and historic charm.
Brighten the Corners hopes to “bridge the gap” between the church’s sister venues, (The Baths and The Smokehouse) and help attract touring bands to “secure Ipswich on the national touring circuit”.
St Stephen’s Church also features a daytime and twilight café/bar, with additional space available for artists and promoters to hire out.
A venue with a long and bright musical history, St Matthew’s Baths Halls has been used for live music since the 1960s, hosting several iconic acts such as Led Zeppelin, Cream, and The Move. After spending some time repurposed as a social club, followed by a brief stint as a gym, The Baths has returned to its former purpose as a hub of creative activity.
After receiving a £45K grant to improve fire safety for the venue, capacity was increased drastically, and Brighten the Corners hopes that further investment will help this venue to continue to expand to its full potential.
New Gen, our Youth Music project delievered in partnership with Out Loud Music, were lucky enough to take a trip to The Baths for a 'Sampling for Songwriting' workshop with BBC Introducing-featured artist Cevanne. New Gen offers participants the opportunity to explore and develop skills in music production, radio, performance and more by bringing together like-minded young people to develop their talents outside their comfort zone. The workshop was a great opportunity for the young people to visit this iconic venue.
Based at our very own South Street Studios, The Smokehouse is a media venue that by day hosts a variety of workshops for people from a wide range of backgrounds, community groups and charities, and by night becomes a bustling space filled with live music. The Smokehouse is run mostly by volunteer staff, and offers opportunities for training in sound, lighting, videography, and front of house work for people interested in gaining experience in those fields.
The Smokehouse also showcases a great deal of experience in spearheading town-wide events such as Sound City Ipswich, a multi-venue festival which brought together local, national, and regional artists, helping put Ipswich on the map as a viable gig location.
The Smokehouse hosts over 200 gigs annually, and also offers the chance for small up and coming artists, DJs and musicians to book and host their own gigs, introducing them to new audiences and helping to further their potential.
Our New Gen group has been lucky enough to play more than once at The Smokehouse.
Most recently they hosted their own fundraising gig, where they gained vital skills in performance and sound engineering.
Having access to spaces like The Smokehouse is incredibly valuable as it allows the young people to get real world experience in a working venue while growing their confidence in a familiar environment.
We hope to see you all enjoying yourselves safely at the events being held at these venues, and wish all local creatives a wonderfully successful and productive week.