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Closed Ipswich church to be converted into arts centre

St Clement's Church. Photo: Neil Salter
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A derelict church in Ipswich is to be transformed into an arts centre that will host professional theatre productions and touring companies.

St Clement’s church has stood empty since 1979, but newly formed Ipswich Arts Centre group has agreed to take the building on from Ipswich Historic Churches Trust. It is planning to turn the church into an arts centre, and hopes this will boost Ipswich’s cultural attraction.

Ipswich Arts Centre member Simon Hallsworth said: “St Clement’s is an astonishing 14th-century church and an amazing space, but it’s been lying empty for the last 30 years. Right now, what we have is a beautiful shell.

Places like Colchester and Norwich have arts centres located in deserted churches, and there is such a good model of what we think we can accomplish here.”

Hallsworth hopes St Clement’s will host events from theatre and live music to film showings and fashion shows, and plans to reopen the space as soon as basic improvements are made, which will allow the venue to start generating the money needed to complete a full refurbishment. This could cost up to
£1 million.

“Once we start putting on events, we can generate consciousness around the venue. We want to start getting the community to understand that this is there for them. It’s not an exclusive space and we want it to be used for a really diverse array of purposes,” he said.

The group recently held a launch event, attended by more than 230 people.
“The weight of enthusiasm for what we proposed was overwhelming. Ipswich wants its arts centre and we are going to provide it,” Hallsworth said.

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