News

Our Transformation Promise – Update June 2021

A year on from the toppling of the Colston statue just a short distance from our front door, and a summer of activism galvanised by the Black Lives Matter movement, we are revisiting the promise we made last year to create a concert space without barriers.

In September 2020, we changed the name of our venue from Colston Hall to Bristol Beacon, ending the association with the slave-trader Edward Colston.

Despite being built 150 years after his death, and with no financial contribution from Colston, the name served as a powerful symbol of exclusion to many in our city.

Changing it was a defining moment in the life of our organisation. It was a commitment to the idea that music knows no barriers, and a commitment to inclusion and equality.

Foremost, we would like to restate firmly now that commitment and our unequivocal opposition to racism.

At the time of our name change, we worked as a team to create our Transformation Promise to become a more inclusive organisation and venue for artists, colleagues and audiences alike.

With the many challenges of the pandemic, and the fact it has slowed down or stopped much of our work for the past year, we know there is plenty more for us to do.

This is a journey, and we recognise that it will take time. But we thought it was important to update now on our pledges, to demonstrate again our commitment to creating a space where the unity and joy of live music can be shared by everyone.

Louise Mitchell
Chief Executive

In September 2020 alongside announcing the new name of our organisation, Bristol Beacon, we published our Transformation Promise to set out our commitment to organisational change.

We are growing what we do, who we do it with and who we do it for.

We are working hard to remove any barrier to the unity and joy of live music being shared by everyone.

We pledged regular updates on our Transformation Promise. Here’s what we’ve been working on to date.

A TRULY DIVERSE MUSIC PROGRAMME

Music is what we do. And music is at the heart of life in Bristol. So we want our artistic programme to be as cutting-edge and as diverse as the city we’re proud to call our home. By 2023 we are committed to creating a programme that celebrates and showcases what makes our city special.

PLEDGE: As a Founder of the Alliance for a Musically Inclusive England, continue to work closely with the National Foundation for Youth Music to support the development of under-represented early career creatives, through a dedicated, tailored programme of mentoring, seed-funding, creative collaboration and industry experience.

  • Drawing on our work developing emerging talent over the last three years through our Multi-Track Home Grown Heat, FLOW Creative and music ensemble programmes, in autumn 2021 Bristol Beacon will be announcing a new industry development initiative for 18 – 25-year-olds.
  • Participants will explore career paths with a personal mentor, get expert advice from industry professionals and get seed-funding to realise their own creative ideas.

PLEDGE: Provide opportunities for Bristol’s diverse emerging musicians and producers by annually investing significant funds into a commissioning programme and showcasing the talent of the city

  • In November 2020 we launched ‘A New Song For Bristol’, a major city-wide project through which we commissioned a diverse cohort of six Bristol-based artists to create original pieces of music inspired by the ideas and stories of Bristol communities.
  • A new five-year commissioning programme is currently being designed to begin later this year

PLEDGE: Expand our Talent Pipeline developed alongside our partners and funders PRS Foundation to further support local under-represented artists, with a yearly investment to train and perform at the highest level.

  • Building on two previous live editions of Bristol Takeover, and two online editions during the pandemic, we are committed to delivering Bristol Takeover as an annual showcase of diverse music talent in the city with the next edition due to take place this year
  • In February 2021 we delivered an online professional development workshop responding to the challenges emerging artists faced with COVID-19 in partnership with Young Guns Network
  • Upon the conclusion of our Multi-Track programme in summer 2021, we are re-designing our talent pipeline to ensure that we create a talent pathway from school to stage

PLEDGE: Work with young creatives in collaboration with Rising Arts Agency to develop the visual identity of our organisation.

  • In November 2020 Bristol Beacon engaged a diverse cohort of three emerging creatives represented by Rising Arts Agency to collaborate on creating the new visual identity for Bristol Beacon
  • We have collaborated to create a brand that reflects the vibrancy and diversity of Bristol. We will be unveiling the new identity and a new website in autumn 2021

PLEDGE: Create an annual programme of innovative orchestral work with Associate Artists Paraorchestra that will amplify the voices of disabled artists.

  • We are continuing our ongoing partnership with Paraorchestra – and are working with them on their next original commission Smoosh!
  • Furthermore, as the Bristol Centre for the National Open Youth Orchestra, Bristol Beacon has been supporting a pioneering inclusive orchestra where talented young disabled and non-disabled musicians based in the South West develop their musical skills together. Their inaugural concerts are lined up for 2022.

PLEDGE: Work in partnership with agencies, producers and promoters who bring additional experience of working with diverse artists.

  • In September 2021 Bristol Beacon will host the Diverse Artist Network networking event, and in June this year we welcome Bristol Refugee Festival into the venue for their annual launch event. This is the beginning of a building broad relationships with the city’s cultural organisations.
  • Over the next year we will be conducting a review of our existing partnerships and identifying underrepresented areas in our programme in order to build strategic relationships to address areas of opportunity
  • We have worked with a diverse cohort of young people from Rising Arts Agency over the last 7 months to develop new branding and marketing guidelines for our organisation

LIFE-LONG EXPERIENCES FOR ALL

By 2023 our audience will mirror the diversity of Bristol. We will look at everything we do so everyone can enjoy live music and inspiring life-long learning experiences. From the classroom and the community centre, to the concert hall.

PLEDGE: Expand and initiate programmes to ensure those attending and participating in our work are representative of the demographic of the city, with a particular focus on ethnicity, age and disability.

  • During the pandemic, we have focused our activity on supporting young people in challenging circumstances by offering free online 1-to-1 tuition and group music making workshops
  • Key programmes of work include Hope Creative (for children in care), FLOW Creative (for disabled young people) and working with National Open Youth Orchestra (NOYO) to support disabled young musicians.
  • Through delivering sessions online, participation in these programmes has greatly increased during the pandemic – in the case of FLOW Creative by 400%.

PLEDGE: Continue to engage low-income families with our music education and performance opportunities by expanding programmes such as our primary schools initiative funded by Earthsong Foundation which provides free instrumental music lessons to 4,500 children in the city

  • Throughout the pandemic we have offered free in-person lessons for children in care, care leavers and disabled young people
  • We provide ongoing music tuition and ensemble bursaries for low-income families
  • The Earthsong programme is moving into its third phase having successfully delivered weekly music lessons to 1,500 Bristol children to date and a further 3,000 over the next 3 years.
  • We have provided online theatre tickets for 60 families in partnership with Dragonbird Theatre, Barnardo’s and Hope Virtual School
  • In 2021 we are working with Brolly Productions in three city libraries to take music and art to local families and children.

PLEDGE: Ensure that 20% of our programme takes place in community spaces in Bristol

  • During the transformation of our venue, currently 86% of our programmed events are due to take place in spaces outside of Bristol Beacon
  • Our ambition is to ensure that a balance of work not less than 20% continues to take place outside of Bristol Beacon post-reopening in 2023

PLEDGE: Achieve an Attitude is Everything Gold Standard by the time we reopen our transformed venue ensuring disabled people have full access to our music and learning spaces and programmes

  • Bristol Beacon currently holds a Silver Award from Attitude is Everything’s charter of best practice. The transformed venue will have fully accessible spaces for people with disabilities, both audiences and artists.

PLEDGE: Publish an Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Action Plan which sets out our goals.

  • We have published our first Equalities Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Action Plan
  • We have worked with The National Foundation for Youth Music to develop the HEARD model of inclusion, which helps us to reflect on our work and stimulate conversation around the purpose and impact of what we do. The model has been adopted by the Alliance for a Musically Inclusive England, and by Music Education Hubs across the country.

COLLABORATION IS AT THE HEART OF OUR WORK

We want all Bristolians to be proud of their concert venue and this means working closely with Bristol’s communities. In the build-up to reopening and from then on, communities will be at the heart of our decision making, ensuring that our work is relevant and representative.

PLEDGE: Instigate a city-wide programme of work in partnership with Paul Hamlyn Foundation, who will invest £400,000 in a major programme of community-led activity centred around the reopening of the new concert venue. Programmes will include work with children under 5 from low-income families, adults living in social isolation or with dementia, children in care and care leavers and community artists and musicians

In 2021 the following programmes will take place:

  • Musical Beacons – establishing safe creative spaces for disabled children in early years and their families to be creative and connect with others
  • Flow Creative – a creative music programme for disabled young people
  • Partnering with South Bristol Youth on a female empowerment project
  • Partnership with the Dementia Wellbeing Service to provide opportunities for adults living with dementia and their families

PLEDGE: Commission Bristol residents to share their creative responses to our Transformation through our National Lottery Heritage Fund interpretation programme.

  • As part of the ‘A New Song For Bristol‘ project launched in November 2020, Bristol Beacon launched a city-wide callout for residents’ creative responses to living in Bristol
  • The responses will inspire a large-scale artwork on the front of Bristol Beacon, designed by Bristol artist Parys Gardener, to be installed in September.
  • The submissions will also be incorporated into Bristol Beacon’s heritage interpretation displays in the transformed building.

PLEDGE: Work in partnership with community organisations to identify participants, receive referrals and co-create exceptional music activities

  • All of our work is now based on strong principles of co-creation. As a result referrals have dramatically increased.
  • These include from partners in local authority, education, adult education, young people’s organisations, older people’s organisations, disability organisations and the arts and health sector.

REFLECTING THE CITY AND ITS PEOPLE

A modern, forward-thinking arts organisation represents and reflects the identities and experiences of all people. By 2025 we will improve workforce representation to mirror the diversity of our local area.

PLEDGE: Expand and initiate programmes to increase representation of people of colour and those who identify as disabled in our workforce (currently 7% and 4% respectively).

  • We now offer guaranteed interviews for candidates with a disability who meet the minimum criteria for the role.
  • We offer mentoring to applicants who are not sure how to articulate their experience when applying for a role in the arts, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds in our workforce
  • We have redesigned our Job Application Pack to make it more accessible
  • We are undertaking targeted recruitment advertising with local partners to reach candidates underrepresented in our workforce

PLEDGE: Undertake regular organisation wide diversity and inclusion training.

  • We are in the process of developing an Organisational Development – People Plan, which will include diversity and inclusion training for staff across the organisation. This work will start by autumn 2021 as staff return to work following the pandemic

PLEDGE: Recruit a creative programmer in 2021 from an under-represented socio-economic background in a position funded by Jerwood Arts.

  • In May 2021 the successful candidate for the Creative Assistant role started work at Bristol Beacon. The Creative Assistant is now working across Programming, Marketing and Community creative teams.

PLEDGE: Conduct a review of all aspects of our organisational structure and actions with a focus on culture and recruitment – including unconscious bias training, and inclusion and employee voice programmes. We will develop staff wellbeing initiatives as part of this organisational change, to support the individual needs of our staff and improve the richness of experience for all.

  • We have written and introduced a Wellbeing Policy and are now working to embed wellbeing throughout our organisation
  • To support us we have introduced 7 trained Mental Health First Aid Champions staff members and a new Employee Assistance Programme.
  • In autumn 2021 we will undertake organisation-wide unconscious bias training as part of our internal culture review. This work will be underpinned by our Organisational Development People Plan.

PLEDGE: Deliver on our commitment to run the UK’s first carbon neutral concert venue

  • We have successfully appointed sustainability consultants HOPE Solutions, and are now preparing to undertake a period of consultation with the public, our audiences, partners and city leaders.
  • We will publish our sustainability roadmap towards organisational environmental responsibility in November 2021 to coincide with the international climate change conference COP26.
  • We are working with creative partners including charity Global Goals on a programme of activity to bring the issues around the environmental responsibility to life, including a response to COP26.

What’s next?

Delivering on our Transformation Promise is an ongoing journey that we recognise will take time. The key targets for us to address in the next 6 to 12 months include…

Truly Diverse Music Programme

  • Announcing four high profile artists to create public art for the transformed concert venue, including two who are based in the city

Lifelong Experiences for All

  • Creating accessible ticketing schemes to ensure that everyone has a chance to attend a performance

Collaboration is at the heart of our work

  • Supporting communities and groups to access and use our spaces post-pandemic

Reflecting the city and its People

  • Publishing our first annual diversity report

Welcome to
Bristol Beacon

On Wednesday 23 September 2020 Colston Hall changed its name to Bristol Beacon.

Our new name is just the first step, it is about more than the sign above our door. Click below to find out more about how we’re changing, watch our name announcement, and discover how we want everyone to share in the joy of live music.

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