A new beginning

After surviving the threat of demolition Union Chapel finds new relevancy and purpose.

  • 1982
  • 1982

    Union Chapel saved from demolition!

    The planning application was withdrawn thanks to the campaigning of local residents. Some of these residents went on to form Friends of Union Chapel. The congregation were somewhat surprised by the amount of support for the space from people who did not use it as a Church. They began to think about ways they could open it up to the wider community, who loved it so much…

  • 1982

    Friends of Union Chapel formed

    The Friends of Union Chapel were founded to help restore and preserve Union Chapel, Islington, and organise a variety of activities in the building. They are an independent charity that is still going strong today.

  • 1991
  • 1991

    The charity Union Chapel Project is formed

    The Project's main aims are to restore and develop the building and to open up the space to as many people as possible. They start hiring the Chapel out for gigs… That goes rather well with the likes of Procol Harum, U2 & Bjork performing. The architecture of the space lends itself so well to music because the whole building was built for the human voice. A minister in the pulpit can be seen and heard from everywhere in the Chapel, but remarkably the minister can also see and hear everyone in the Chapel. This fine balance makes for a venue with real intimacy. The beauty of the Chapel helps make concerts special in another way – perhaps providing just a little bit of extra inspiration for performers and audiences alike :-)

  • 1992
  • A guest at our Drop In. Photo by Daniela Sbrisny.


    The Margins Project is formed

    Margins was established to support people facing homelessness, risk of homelessness, crisis and isolation. It was formed in in direct response to the number of homeless people who came to the Chapel looking for assistance and shelter. Islington is a borough of two halves; it is the 14th most deprived in the country and has the fourth highest incidence of child poverty in England. But it is also home to the super affluent, regularly featuring in the top 10 most expensive places to live. This dichotomy is, to this day, pronounced and troublesome. Opening up this building to all of our community is one key aspect of everything that we do here, be it as a venue, a Church or through the work of The Margins Project.

  • 1997
  • One of the many roofs at Union Chapel

    1997 - 2004

    Roof Repairs

    This major project saw the complete re-tiling of Union Chapel’s 20 odd rooves. The work was largely funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund but thousands of individuals also bought roof tiles – including one David Byrne, to help us cover the enormous area.

  • 2002
  • 2002

    Union Chapel voted London’s best live music venue!

    In a poll organised by Time Out. Have a look through the gig archive and see what kind of gigs earned us that title!

    Gig Archive
  • 2003
  • December 2003

    Venue forced to close

    The closure was due to a whole mixture of reasons, not least because of inadequate facilities and noise complaints…

  • 2007
  • 2007

    Fundraising begun to repair our Tower

    A survey identified that the Tower and its Spire was in serious danger of collapse having been twice hit by lightning and damaged by the bomb that destroyed Highbury corner in WW2.

  • 2009
  • 2009

    Union Chapel named Best London Music Venue

    As part of the the Love London Awards 2009

  • 2011
  • 2011

    The Chapel becomes a Grade I listed building

    This means it is protected, by the state, from demolition and significant alteration. The completeness of the original features & decor was cited as the main reason for its elevation from Grade II*. Little things like the original Victorian ventilation shafts in the balcony and of course the pews, which are remarkably intact. All things that would have probably been ‘improved’ upon had there been a bit more money to hand in the 20th Century!

  • August 2011

    Tower works completed

    After nearly two years under scaffold the repair works to the top levels of the tower and spire were completed.

  • 2012
  • March 2012

    Union Chapel named London’s Greatest Live Music Venue

    By the readers of Time Out :-)

  • October 2012

    The Organ Project begun

    Union Chapel Project was awarded money by the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore our unique organ and also to establish a three year out reach project around it.

  • 2013
  • January 2013

    Work begun on Union Chapel’s Organ

    This really was not a moment too soon as the Organ was in serious danger of becoming unplayable. The whole Organ was removed by restorers Harrison & Harrison and taken to their workshops in Durham. Each individual pipe was taken out, cleaned and repaired where necessary. The whole project took seven months to complete.

  • August 2013

    Return of the Organ

    After 7 months of intensive work the beautifully restored organ was launched with a week of concerts! Highlights included a screening of Carl Dreyers 1928 masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc with live score for organ, soprano & electronics and the premiere of piece composed specially for our Organ and strings by Claire M. Singer.

    Upcoming Organ Concerts
  • August 2013

    Margins Cafe Training Programme launched

    The Margins Project Cafe Training Programme gives people who have experienced homelessness, isolation and long term unemployment the chance to get back into the working world in a supportive environment.

  • 2014
  • June 2014

    Union Chapel awarded London’s Favourite Venue

    Union Chapel was named London’s Favourite Venue, in a by public vote run by Time Out, as part of the Mayor of London’s Music awards.

  • 2025
  • Delve into the gig archive