Phase two of the Colston Hall’s major redevelopment looks set to go ahead, in what has been hailed a ‘watershed moment’ for the future of music in Bristol.
Arts and business sector leaders united in support for the transformation of the 150-year-old venue and welcomed the city council cabinet’s decision to underwrite funding of the £48.8m project so it can be brought to completion.
Bristol Music Trust (BMT) is tasked with raising the money required to create what is expected to be one of the best arts and learning facilities in the UK, but as owners of the hall, the council must accept ultimate responsibility for the redevelopment.
The appeal for members to support a final £10m bid to the Arts Council England and underwrite funding for the overall project comes against a backdrop of further severe public service cuts.
Addressing a cabinet meeting on Monday, trustee of BMT Marti Burgess said the contribution music makes to our city should not be underestimated and appealed for members to back a bid that, she said, would secure the future of the venue.
Estella Tincknell, cabinet member for culture, outlined the difficulties faced by the city, but recommended that progressing with the project was the best option to ensure the council’s asset can be redeveloped, bringing both cultural and economic benefits in the long run.
BMT chairman Henry Kenyon, also spoke out to urge councillors to continue backing a long overdue redevelopment project that has been several years in the making.
“Surely it’s a watershed moment for the future of the hall,” he said. “We have submitted a truly outstanding design for planning.
“The report is clear in its recommendation to press ahead with urgency to complete works by the summer of 2020. To do nothing would be committing the council to a hugely expensive annual maintenance bill just to keep it open and we would subject this city to a third rate venue.”
He said that the trust has already identified a potential £30.5m of funding, including the £10m Arts Council bid and £10m that is already earmarked in the council’s approved capital programme, and stressed that every care has been taken to ensure the project can be delivered on time and under budget.
Speaking on behalf of the business sector, chief executive of Bristol Chamber of Commerce, James Durie, told members that arts and culture are vital for the city to thrive and grow.
“Our cultural offer differentiates us and sets us apart and offers opportunities for people locally. It will create jobs and benefit the city,” he said, adding that the redevelopment will create jobs and benefit Bristol and beyond.
Mayor Marvin Rees outlined his concerns about ploughing ahead with what could be perceived as ‘vanity projects,’ while vital services are facing cuts, but concluded that he believes in the hall’s redevelopment and its ability to bring long term benefits for all.
He urged project leaders to strive to complete the project under budget, ensure that its associated benefits do trickle down to all factions in the city. Rees also appealed for businesses who back the project to offer their financial support.
The Colston Hall will reopen with a new name after the transformation programme, which will include major remodelling of the main hall, redeveloping The Lantern, opening up historic cellars for the first time in 100 years to create a cabaret style performance area and education areas.
The foyer and the Colston Street frontage will be restored and accessibility and learning options for disabled people will be improved.
Speaking after the cabinet’s recommendation to underwrite the project, BMT chief executive Louise Mitchell said she is delighted and looks forward to working together to deliver what will be an extraordinary venue.
BMT released a statement after the meeting, welcoming the decision and said: “The £48.8m transformation planned for Colston Hall will be Bristol’s biggest ever redevelopment programme in the arts sector, and something from which the whole city can benefit.
“As well as delivering a world-class concert venue, it will provide greater capacity and an increase in performances, generating an estimated additional £253.7m for the local economy. It will also enable us to set new national accessibility standards and deliver music education to young people in every community across the city.
“Everything is now in place and we can focus on the final stages of fundraising and look forward to a magnificent new Hall in 2020.”