Alcohol ban closes Union Chapel Project

Union Chapel Project, the music and performing arts organisation housed within an Islington church, has been forced to close after the religious group that owns the venue voted to ban alcohol in the main auditorium.

Formed in 1992, UCP has hosted performing artists such as Patti Smith, Bjork, Beck and David Byrne. However, over the last year it suffered a series of financial setbacks, culminating in the church’s decision to prohibit alcohol consumption.

UCP chair and church member, Philip Walker explained: “The new pastor Mark Shelton has a different view of what the chapel spaces should be used for and there is no consensus between the church and the project as to the way forward.”

In December 2003, Islington council upheld a complaint from residents over noise levels, meaning the venue had to limit the range of music that it was able to offer. Simultaneously, it was made to halve its capacity to 500, pending the installation of additional facilities.

Due to these measures, UCP had to cut its operating budget and reduce staffing levels. After the alcohol ban came in to effect at the end of last year, the directors felt that they could not run the venue profitably and took the decision to close at the end of January.

Funds raised by the arts programme had been used for the upkeep of the Grade II* listed chapel and there are now fears that without the income generated by UCP the building itself may suffer.

Gregory Edwards, UCP director and treasurer, said: “We can but hope that the roof renovations will go ahead next year as planned. It would be a tragedy if this architecturally important building were allowed to decay beyond repair – a strong chance without UCP there to raise funds.”

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