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Concert halls have a key role in community cohesion, education and enterprise says Government Minister at launch of plans for multi-million transformation of Bristol’s Colston Hall

Stephen Williams, Communities Minister and MP for Bristol West, yesterday said that UK concert halls have a key role to play in bringing communities together, developing life skills and growing the economy through musical education.

Speaking at the launch of multi-million pound plans to transform Bristol’s Colston Hall into an international standard concert hall, he said: “Concert halls such as the Barbican and Southbank Centre in London, and the Sage in Gateshead, are already doing fabulous work in their communities and taking music out to the masses. The projects run by such venues tie in with the Government’s National Plan for Music Education and that’s why it’s great to see Colston Hall’s ambitious plans to create an international standard concert hall, which will include a significant investment in musical education.

This development will help build on the Hall’s success to date in harnessing the power of music through its Bristol Plays Music initiative, which is helping to inspire young people and adults, teach them about music and the arts and help transform their lives.”

Stephen Williams

The Colston Hall’s transformation project  will be one of the largest projects of its kind ever in the UK.  It will be the last of the major concert halls in the country to have undergone a major redevelopment since the 1980s and works are planned to commence in the Hall’s 150th year in 2017, ready for opening in 2019.

At the launch, Bristol Music Trust announced the ‘Thank You for the Music’ appeal to raise up to £45m for the redevelopment of the iconic building into what it describes as “a national and regional centre for entertainment, education and enterprise.”

The transformation plans include:

  • remodelling the existing main auditorium, with major changes to the stage and equipping it with international standards of acoustics, comfort and flexibility
  • redeveloping the second hall, known as The Lantern, into an elegant and versatile performance venue – The Lantern started life as the Little Theatre in the 1920s and became a bar until it was turned back into a second performance area in 2009
  • the introduction of flexible seating technology which will enable the venue to be used for a variety of purposes – from a range of performances covering the arts spectrum to festivals, corporate events and graduations
  • opening up the cellars, which are underneath the auditorium, for the first time in 100 years to provide educational workshops, workspace for performing arts business enterprises and a cabaret style performance area
  • restoring the historic core of the building  and the Colston Street frontage to its Victorian magnificence
  • bringing back the historic colonnade to its former glory.

The programme of works, will form phase two of Bristol’s biggest ever redevelopment programme in the arts sector. The first stage involved the construction of the £20m foyer space, which opened in 2009.

It will be the fifth time in its long history that the Hall will have been redeveloped or rebuilt. The Hall, which opened in 1867 has come through two fires and two world wars. In that time it has played its own significant role in the country’s musical culture and reputation.  Spanning generations, it has led the field in music from dance to early rock and roll, from beat groups to prog rock.  It has also played host to some of the major musical influences down the years including The Beatles (who were famously flour bombed by the audience at Colston Hall in 1964), and Bob Dylan, who filmed the live shots for ‘Hearts of Fire’ at the Hall.

Says Louise Mitchell, Chief Executive at Colston Hall: “Currently it’s like stepping back in time as you go from our new foyer to our old building. This transformation will bring a much needed concert hall of international standard to the city and region, whilst being a major national and regional centre for the development of artistic talent and enterprise.

The Hall has played host to many famous artists and musicians: from The Beatles to The Rolling Stones, Simon Rattle to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and from Stephen Fry to Billy Connolly. The transformation will ensure that the Hall continues to be a driving force in the performing arts arena and provide the platform for the stars of the future for another 150 years.”

Louise Mitchell

Jazz star Jamie Cullum commented: “I have played at Colston Hall many times and it’s a great venue with such an intimate environment and great connection with your audience. It’s good to hear they are planning to modernise the venue and to such a high standard. I’m also delighted that the new facility will be more than just an entertainment venue, and will nurture future talent through education and the development of businesses related to the performing arts.”

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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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