The Friends of St Peter’s Sudbury has been awarded £9,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) towards a £10,000 project to broaden the appeal of the community venue to younger people.
The Grade I listed St Peter’s on Market Hill is a popular hub in the town centre. There are around 150 events that take place there each year ranging from farmers’ markets to art exhibitions and music concerts.
Also visited by tourists, all together it attracts around 60,000 visitors annually.
However, visitor surveys have shown that the majority of people who use the church are aged fifty years and over.
The Friends want to encourage younger people to use St Peter’s and so a portion of the grant money will be used to appoint a professional consultant to run a series of audience development workshops for identified target groups including families, teenagers and 20–45 year-olds.
The purpose of these workshops will be to develop recommendations for activities and events at St Peter’s, bringing these groups together to unlock the potential of the site for younger people.
The remainder of money will be used to put on a number of these events at the church.
Peter Gray from the Friends of St Peter’s said: “Although St Peter’s is Sudbury’s prime venue and currently very well used, there is concern for its future.
“Surveys show that most visitors are retired and visits from younger people are minimal.
“I can’t think of another town that has a building of such stature at its centre that is available for use by all members of the community. We need to engage the future citizens of the town, so they recognise they can use St Peter’s on their own terms.”
The project will focus on the building’s heritage not only to engage new users, but also to discover hidden histories, which could reveal as yet untold stories of Sudbury’s and St Peter’s past.
The initiative is part of a larger, long-term partnership project with the Churches Conservation Trust to modernise the church’s facilities.
Peter Aiers, south east director at the Churches Conservation Trust, the organisation that maintains St Peter’s, said: “The challenge of exciting younger audiences with the stories of church buildings is shared by many of our sites across England.
“We look forward to supporting the Friends of St Peter’s in making this project a resounding success.”