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Bristol Beacon announces new Chief Executive

A smiling person wearing a suit stands in a concert hall in front of several rows of chairs.

Following the highly-anticipated reopening of our venue on Thu 30 Nov and the recent announcement that our current Chief Executive Louise Mitchell will step down this summer after 12 years in post, we are delighted to share that Simon Wales will be taking over as our new Chief Executive from August.

Simon is an experienced arts and cultural leader who has led music and heritage organisations and instigated cultural and commercial change across his career. In his current role as Chief Executive of Stowe House Preservation Trust – a charity that raises funds and provides public access to the historic buildings at Stowe School – Simon has overseen the growth in audiences and income, created a public arts programme based at Stowe School, and planned the next phase of restoration projects as part of a £25 million overall programme.

In a previous leadership role at Waddesdon Manor, he created a series of chamber concerts in the contemporary Windmill Hill Archive, established a summer arts festival, and commissioned contemporary light artists and designers for a major Christmas Season. A Clore Fellow, he has also worked with the London Symphony Orchestra as Director of the LSO St Luke’s music education centre and music charity B:Music (Town Hall & Symphony Hall) in Birmingham.

Simon has also been a trustee of various charities and is currently chair of Motionhouse, a dance circus company that performs across the UK and the world. A former cellist, Simon has also sung with the London Symphony Chorus, performing at the Barbican, Royal Albert Hall and on tour with the LSO, Sir Simon Rattle and Sir Antonio Pappano amongst others.

Our new Chief Executive

I have followed the transformation of Bristol Beacon’s venue and organisation with admiration. The Beacon has become a champion and focal point for music and music education in the city, and it is clear that Louise and her team are working hard to make sure that the venue is reflective of and welcoming to the city’s diverse communities.

I know Bristol well and I can’t wait to pick up the Bristol Beacon baton from Louise, take on her incredible legacy, and lead this music charity onto the next stage of its journey for the people of Bristol and beyond. As a singer and music lover this role really is a dream position for me.

Simon Wales

Jonathan Dimbleby, Chair of Bristol Music Trust, the charity that runs Bristol Beacon says: “We are absolutely delighted that Simon will be taking over as chief executive at Bristol Beacon. He has many years of experience in the arts, and brings with him passion, determination and fresh ideas as we look to the future. We were unanimous in our decision that he was the right person to lead the Beacon into its next era with transparency, equity, and inclusion as his guiding principles, as well as bringing a knowledge, love and passion for music of all kinds.”

He continues, “Louise Mitchell has done a truly outstanding job of leading Bristol Beacon over the last 12 years and will be going out on a high, having overseen the once-in-a-generation transformation of the venue, leading the city’s music education hub with renewed funding and a widened remit to work across the region, and, since the reopening, securing the BBC Proms to perform at the Beacon this summer, bringing global audiences to the venue. I know that Simon is committed to continuing her legacy and working hard to serve the audiences, musicians and communities of Bristol and the South West.”

Our story

Louise has been at the helm of Bristol Music Trust since it was established by Bristol City Council in 2011, guiding our organisation through a number of milestone occasions including our name change, a five-year transformation period and the pandemic whilst maintaining the Trust’s vision to establish Bristol Beacon as a hub within the city to showcase, experience and share the joy of live music with all people. We’re so grateful for all of her hard work and guidance and will deeply miss her at Bristol Beacon, but look forward to welcoming Simon Wales in his new role as our Chief Executive as we continue to champion music at the heart of Bristol.

Since reopening the doors to our transformed venue, Bristol Beacon has made a remarkable impact, with a 30% surge in ticket sales for our opening months of December, January, and February*. Over 97,000 tickets were purchased in that time for forthcoming shows.

In the first 100 days of Bristol Beacon, we have welcomed in 100,000 visitors, enjoying an incredible and diverse programme of events that include 75 concerts, three world premieres, 14 comedy gigs, three family shows and two festivals that have taken place since 30 November.

* Compared to the same months in 2017 – the most comparable months, when the venue was last fully open prior to the building transformation. 

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