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Bristol Beacon Chief Executive awarded CBE for service to Arts in Bristol

A woman wearing a navy blue patterned dress and jacket smiles

Louise Mitchell, the chief executive of Bristol Beacon, has been named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in King Charles III’s first New Year’s Honours list in recognition of her services to the Arts in Bristol.

Louise’s career spans more than four decades, during which time she has become recognised as a tenacious ambassador for the arts nationally and internationally. She has dedicated her career to opening up the world of music, in particular classical music, to wide and diverse new audiences.

A tenacious ambassador for the arts

As chief executive of the independent music charity Bristol Music Trust which runs Bristol Beacon, Bristol’s main concert venue and education hub, Louise has been instrumental in steering the ongoing £107m transformation of Bristol Beacon, one of the biggest arts regeneration projects in the UK, and led on the venue’s significant name change away from that of the slave trader Edward Colston.

Other achievements at Bristol Beacon include reinvigorating the classical music programme, bringing a landmark staging by Sir John Eliot Gardiner of the three Monteverdi operas which were voted The Guardian’s classical music event of the year to Bristol, as well as bringing the city’s successful music education hub into the organisation, the first time a hub had been run from a concert venue.

Before moving to Bristol, Louise worked in Scotland, including as director of Glasgow’s Concert Halls for 13 years, where she spearheaded the regeneration of two of the city’s most revered venues, the City Halls and The Old Fruitmarket, saving them from closure. She also headed the team producing Glasgow’s Celtic Connections, the largest winter festival in the world celebrating folk, roots and world music.

From there, she was appointed to the role of director of Glasgow UNESCO City of Music after it was awarded the title in 2008. She has also held senior positions at prestigious organisations including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Barbican Centre and Edinburgh International Festival.


A renowned national and international cultural leader

In addition to her professional roles, Louise has generously given significant amounts of her time and energy to voluntary roles. She is currently chair of National Children’s Orchestras of Great Britain, is a South West regional Council member of Arts Council England, a trustee of Paraorchestra, a Council Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society and serves as a trustee of Impact Scotland, the charity developing an iconic new concert hall for Edinburgh.

Louise is not only a renowned cultural leader in the UK but she has substantial international recognition and standing. She was instrumental in the formation of the board of the International Society of Performing Arts (ISPA) on which she sat for 8 years, influencing its future growth and success. In 2017 Louise was awarded the Patrick Hayes Award by ISPA, recognising exceptional transformative leadership in the performing arts. This was the first time it was awarded to a UK arts leader in 8 years.

Other notable awards include the Institute of Directors’ Third Sector Director of the Year (SW) in 2017; the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2008, a French decoration from the Ministry of Culture; and between 2003-11 she held the title of Deputy Lieutenant of the City of Glasgow.

A person wearing white clothes plays violin a violin as audience members stand next to them watching
Paraorchestra, Anatomy of the Orchestra 2018. Photo by Dominika Scheibinger

Louise has built and led a team that has transformed the music offer in Bristol, reaching new and diverse audiences; created an award-winning music hub providing music education to over 30,000 young people and led the development of new and exciting community projects.

Simon Chapman, Bristol Beacon’s chair of the Board of Trustees

Bristol Beacon’s chair of the Board of Trustees, Simon Chapman, says: “We are delighted to have Louise leading Bristol Beacon and its mission to put music at the heart of Bristol life.

“Louise’s drive, vision and entrepreneurial spirit have inspired the once-in-a-generation project to transform the main music spaces of Bristol Beacon into a fully accessible, world-class venue, which will attract audiences and artists for the next 150 years. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with her over the past 11 years and to share her passion for the unity and joy that music can deliver for everyone and anyone. I am thrilled that her work has been recognised in this way – it is much deserved.”

Musicians holding their instrumentssmile as they come out of a performance
Bristol Youth Orchestra Winter Concert 2022. Photo by Eren Chetin | Soul Media

“On behalf of us all at NCO, I extend our huge congratulations to our Chair, Louise Mitchell, on receiving this well-deserved honour. We are enormously proud of her achievements and outstanding commitment to the region and the UK’s music education and classical music sectors.”

Sophie Lewis, Chief Executive of National Children’s Orchestras of Great Britain

A woman wearing dark clothing stands in front of a lectern smiling with a man wearing a suit with the words
Colston Hall unveiling it's new name - Bristol Beacon in 2020

“I’m delighted that this award can help to raise the profile of the arts in Bristol. None of us work alone, it takes a variety of skills to make special things happen and I’m proud of the excellent spirit of team working at Bristol Beacon.”

Louise Mitchell, Chief Executive of Bristol Beacon

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