Live music is more important to Londoners than ever, says head of Union Chapel as venue celebrates 25th anniversary

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“Music is more important to Londoners than ever” say the people behind one of the capital’s quirkiest venues as it celebrates 25 years of legendary concerts.

Islington’s Union Chapel first played host to small gigs in 1992 after a desperate battle against demolition. 

Now, a quarter of a decade later, the venue has welcomed the likes of Elton John, Bjork and Tom Jones to its stage as those behind the impressive intimate gigs claim live music is more popular than ever.

Peter Stapleton, who has worked as the chapel’s communication’s manager for 22 years, admitted the venue had faced setbacks after being forced to close in 2003 – just a year after being named London’s best music venue by Time Out.

Intimate venue: Music lovers enjoy a performance at the Union Chapel (Daniela Sbrinsy)

However, in a landmark move organisers pledged to ban alcohol and stick to a 10.30pm curfew – quirks that they now believe make the space unique.

Mr Stapleton told the Standard that chapel faced its busiest season ever as it celebrated the milestone.

He said: “People seem more interested now than ever before, people really want to enjoy the venue and live music seems to be more popular than ever.”

Emma Stell, marketing manager for the past five years, added that the lack of booze and the history of the 900 capacity building makes it more enticing to music fans.

Interesting acts: Louis Barabbas performs at the Union Chapel’s Daylight Music event (Cath Dupuy)

She said: “It (the alcohol ban) had a beneficial effect on the venue, as people aren’t constantly getting up and down to go to the bar.

“This building was made for the human voice. It has the best acoustics and the intimacy makes it special.”

Huge stars including Adele, Florence and the Machine and Amy Winehouse kicked off their careers at the venue. 

Eclectic mix: Jazz-punk group Perhaps Contraption perform at the Union Chapel (Daniela Sbrisny)

Mr Stapleton said: “A real highlight was when Adele played here just as her career was taking off, just before she made it big.

Ms Stell praised the beautiful venue’s ability to adapt to musician’s acts and said: “Bjork’s 1999 show is the one everybody wishes they were at.

“She took out the PA system and performed with a string quartet and piano. She filled the stage with candles and really made the most of our amazing acoustics.” 

The Union Chapel, which houses a world-class organ similar to those in St Paul’s Cathedral, will go back to basics to celebrate the milestone anniversary with a solely acoustic gig by candlelight.

Architecture buffs will have the opportunity to see the 140-year-old chapel’s impressive mosaic which is usually hidden behind the stage.

For details of the chapel’s 25th anniversary events click here.


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