Re-Opening Union Chapel

Re-Opening Union Chapel

15 July 2022

This last week has been a very important - and emotional - week for us at Union Chapel. 

We were overjoyed to be open to re-open as a venue to audiences for the first time properly since 19th March 2020 – 16 months ago.

And we couldn’t have wished for a better artist to re-open our venue than Celeste, with great support from Hak Baker. As the reviews came in, Celeste at Union Chapel quickly became the hottest ticket in the UK (well, maybe aside from tickets to Wembley!)

But whilst we’ve been closed as a venue, we haven’t closed our doors entirely. As The Mirror recently wonderfully covered, we have remained hugely busy, as a leading ethical arts venue for all.

As a venue and arts centre for all

We’ve had wonderful filmed performances with the likes of Celeste, hosted ground-breaking TV programmes like The Whole Truth (tackling racism, mental health with Arlo Parks, Che Lingo and Kojey Radical), livestreams with Laura Marling, inspiring interviews and performances with the likes of Michaela Coel, Gareth Southgate, Daniel Kitson, RagNBone Man, and many more

We’ve hosted some wonderful arts companies, including the brilliant Company 3, and very recently hosting the Old Vic’s brand new production of Bagdad Café in our Sunday School

And as a charity committed to addressing social justice issues and heritage

We’ve been working hard throughout the pandemic to provide a community emergency response - running creative projects inspiring and empowering our local communities, such as the Community Leaders training programme (which received news coverage); 

Hosting important debates on issues such as the climate crisis, oil drilling in Namibia, the conflict in Tigray and more

Celebrating our heritage through wonderful films, school workshops, keeping our organ programme through the pandemic and more; as well as ongoing conservation work keeping this architectural jewel safe and maintained and turning into a Community Emergency Response Hub - through our projects supporting people experiencing homelessness and crisis, turning our Sunday School into a foodbank and donation hub, working in partnership with other charities and the council, including as part of the Covid Homeless Taskforce, and massively increasing our community outreach. Through this we know we’ve helped over 1,200 people.

This work continues, it remains vital and we intend to increase it. And this work needs support. If you can, please think about donating here

However - this is our first week back as a music venue. Our team worked enormously hard over the last few months to ensure Union Chapel was as prepared, as safe and as welcoming as possible under the current social distancing restrictions. We introduced many measures and procedures to ensure this was possible. And we were pleased that Union Chapel was praised for our measures and execution of these events in line with social distancing in some of the many glowing reviews and social media posts of these events.

And, as I say, we were hugely proud that Celeste chose us as the venue for her first live performances. Celeste has had an amazing year despite the pandemic, and we could not have hoped for a better artist. Celeste and her band were simply stunning. And Hak Baker was a brilliant support, with his brilliant and unique G-Folk sound and lyricism.

We’ve hosted Celeste not once but twice during the pandemic, to record stunning performances of ‘Strange’ and Oscar-nominated ‘Hear My Voice. And Hak Baker did a great set at our wonderful first cross-site event Re-Discovering Union Chapel in October 2019, in my second week as CEO. So, it felt so appropriate they both joined us for this special week!

There still remains a degree of uncertainty about moving towards the next stage, but we hope to be running our next events next month, in August. More information on that separately. 

But this was a great week. To have people together safely, the connection between artist and audience, laughter, and applause – lots of applause and standing ovations! – brought a tear to my eyes.

A few thankyous for making this wonderful week happen...

First, a thanks to all our brilliant team working hard, during this week and in the months running up to it, to make these events a huge success – many stepping in to different roles during the events to make this week work. Thanks to our stewards, bar staff and technicians, it’s been so great having many back (for several the first time since March 2020) after this horrendous year. And of course a huge thanks to all the staff that have been working throughout this whole time, to keep our charitable work going and growing.

Second, thanks to the wonderful Celeste and Hak Baker for choosing Union Chapel. It really was an honour.

And finally, importantly, to you, our audiences, for coming back and being with us for this very special moment. If you couldn’t make it in person, the show has been filmed and will be streamed and broadcast

We hope to see you all back here again, sometime soon.

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