FAQs

We’ve been asked lots of questions about our transformation plans in response to our Transformation campaign. Here are our answers.

Why has Bristol Beacon changed its name from Colston Hall?

  • What made you decide to change the name?

    We know that our former name, that of the slave trader Edward Colston, meant that not everyone has felt welcome or that they belong in their city’s concert hall. And if we couldn’t share the joy of live music with everyone, something had to change.

    Our organisation was founded long after Colston’s death, and has no direct connection to him, financial or otherwise. We can no longer be a monument to someone who played such a prominent role in the slave trade.

    Since the start of our transformation campaign, which we launched in September 2014, we’ve stated that we would be reviewing the name as part of our redevelopment. We made the announcement in April 2017, well before the transformation began in June 2018, to make our intentions clear. We changed our name on 23 September 2020.

    Find out more here

  • The venue is 150 years old. Why has it taken so long to think about changing the name?

    Bristol Music Trust only took over the management of Bristol Beacon in 2011. As soon as we launched our redevelopment plans in 2014, we announced our commitment to reviewing the name. The venue is a major Bristol institution. Changing its name and identity is a move that needed careful thought and discussion. Having consulted widely across the city, we announced our new name on 23 September 2020.

  • Is Bristol Music Trust trying to erase or censure the city’s past?

    We are in no way trying to erase recognition of Bristol’s role in the slave trade, and we recognise the importance of remembering the part this city played in those events as a way of learning from the past and shaping our city for the better moving forward. We want to embrace our position at the centre of this naming discussion to work beyond the building and help lead conversations across Bristol about the history.

    However, as the South West’s flagship concert venue, we also see changing the name as part of our wider redevelopment plans as an opportunity to make a clear statement that the name Colston, and its connections to the transatlantic slave trade, do not represent the values of Bristol Music Trust.

  • Who was Edward Colston?

    Edward Colston was a merchant and slave trader who is widely commemorated across the city in streets and landmarks. The first Colston Hall opened in 1867, 146 years after Edward Colston died, and none of his money was used to fund the Hall.

  • Was the venue built with Edward Colston’s money?

    No. The venue was not built with Edward Colston’s money. It was built 146 years after he died, in 1867, on the site of the former Colston Boys’ School.

What is the need for Transformation?

  • The foyer was recently refurbished, why do you need more redevelopment?

    The building of our foyer which cost £20m in 2009 was Phase One of our transformation plans. This money was invested in the foyer and exterior of the building only, making it accessible and more customer friendly as well as environmentally friendly. In fact the last time there was major refurbishment, artists like Doris Day, Perry Como and Dean Martin topped the UK charts – it was 1954 and The Beatles haven’t even written their first song!

    Phase two of our plans will transform both concert halls, education facilities and underground spaces, with the addition of a third venue.

  • Why does Bristol Beacon need more money spent on it?

    Bristol Beacon is in important part of Bristol’s distinctive reputation as a vibrant, exciting city. We’re a driving force behind our city’s arts and culture economy.

    300,000 people visit us each year to enjoy an incredible variety of artists, from big stars like Jimmy Carr and Russell Brand to Stereophonics and Sam Smith, events such as the Bristol International Classical Season and Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival, as well as the programming in The Lantern with rising stars such as Kamasi Washington and Benjamin Clementine.

    Bristol Beacon programs across all genres and is unique for bringing events to the city that couldn’t happen anywhere else, such as Goldie and the Heritage Orchestra in the Harbourside, John Grant with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and Fast Forward Festival. We also give unparalleled opportunity for emerging artists to bring their talent to wider audiences.

    Bristol Plays Music is the first education music hub in the UK to be based at a major concert venue. We owe it to our audiences, performers and the 15,000 local schoolchildren at 130 schools whose music education is supported by the hub to redevelop our facilities and ensure they are fit for purpose.

  • What will you spend the money on?

    The investment will transform Bristol Beacon into one of the best arts and learning facilities in the country.

    New classrooms and a technology lab will help create an inspiring base for Bristol Plays Music. And, at last, disabled children will learn at the venue for the first time with a building fully accessible to all. Our ambition will help establish Bristol as the UK capital of young people’s music by 2021 and create a benchmark for other music hubs across the nation.

    We’ll revitalise our two current halls, improving both acoustics and comfort. More flexible space will mean a wider variety of performances and artists. A third hall in our historic victorian cellars will also be opened. As a result, our estimate is that we’ll boost the local economy by £100 million over the first five years.

    Businesses and people with jobs in Bristol benefit because our audiences spend money at places other than the venue.

  • What will the impact be on music education in Bristol?

    The transformation will create the UK’s first National Centre for Advanced Training for young musicians with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, with the ambition to do for disabled music what the Paralympics has done for disabled sport.

    Our sister organisation, Bristol Plays Music, is the first education music hub in the UK to be based at a major concert venue. The transformation of the hall will ensure our facilities are fit for purpose for the 15,000 local schoolchildren at 130 schools whose music education is supported by the hub.

What will be improved with the Transformed Hall?

  • Will you do something about the air conditioning or heating?

    Yes. We know our current system is old fashioned. Our current air condition and heating systems were installed in 1954.  The natural air conditioning is piped in from the outside. So when it’s warm outside, it is warm inside and vice versa during the winter. Our new system will adopt the standards of other major concerts venues. This includes adopting high sustainability standards using our existing solar panels and more efficient power systems.

  • Will there be more leg room?

    Yes. The current seat arrangement reflects the fact no refurbishment has taken place for over 60 years. The new halls will contain comfortable seating where audience comfort will be a top priority.

  • What will happen to the current amazing acoustics?

    Retaining our world class acoustics are a very high priority part of our design for the transformed venue. We are working with the best acousticians in the business to ensure that our redeveloped auditoriums will have international standard acoustics across a range of genres.

  • What are the key benefits to Bristol and South West?

    We will:


    – Achieve improved music education standards for the children and young people in Bristol;

    – Boost the Bristol economy by hundreds of millions of pounds in the first five years;

    – Create a revitalised concert hall worthy of the 21st century.

How can I help?

  • How can I support the Transformation campaign?

    If you want to support Bristol Beacon’s Transformation campaign there are currently four ways you can make a donation.

    You can:

    – Name a Seat;
    – Join the CHIME Circle;
    – Become a Major Donor;
    – or Make a Donation Today.

    Find out more about how you can make a donation to our Transformation campaign here.

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.

More info Enter site