Good Venue Guide: 7: Union Chapel, N1

Date of birth: 1877. Brief history: the Georgian Congregational chapel on this site was replaced by the then-2,000-strong congregation with this Victorian high Gothic octagonal chapel, with a 170-ft tower by James Cubitt (not the James Cubitt, mind). Dwindling numbers in the 1980s forced the local community to set up the Union Chapel Project, saving the building and promoting its community role as a chapel, arts venue, refugee childcare centre and homeless drop-in centre. Its exterior is, well, churchy; its interior of wood, marble and stone is sumptuous, intimate, and atmospheric ...in a churchy kind of way.

Take a pew: 1,000 people can squeeze on to the wooden pews, but bearers of sensitive posteriors should take a cushion. A blanket might also be wise: churches are chilly. The Sunday school is now a 220-seat studio theatre.

Musical baptism: plans are afoot to restore the hydraulic motor, replaced in the 1930s, to the Fr Willis organ. This will please the purists and Russian roulette fans: the hydraulic motor is vented straight through the gents' loo.

A broad church for the 1990s: where else can you sit on slats warmed by former congregation members Gladstone, Asquith and Betjeman to experience a wide variety of music, theatre, cabaret and dance? Past pilgrims include the Pretenders, LSO Brass, and the London Gay Men's Choir, plus jazz, folk and sacred music festivals. Eddie Izzard and Jo Brand have hectored from the pulpit, and Circus Space performers have swung from the rafters.

Praise be: the Sundays, Echoes of Anatolia (see Openings, right), Pena Flamenca de Londres, Flagrant Nights, Sabahat Akkiraz, and From the Melting Pot are soon to appear before the masses at the Chapel.

Converted? Get on the mailing list: Union Chapel Project, Compton Avenue, London N1 2XD, or phone 0171 226 1686 for info and tickets.

Going to the chapel: Victoria line or North London line to Highbury & Islington. Emerge from the station, and you can't miss it. Parking after 6.30pm.

More tea, vicar? Glasses of wine from pounds 1.50 in the bar; Tiger Lil's, Fiske and Euphorium are good local eateries.

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