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Colston Hall renovation given green light

It's full steam ahead for the planned overhaul of the famed Bristol venue, as the UK government follows councillors in signing off on planning permission

By IQ on 22 Feb 2018

A rendering of the new main hall, Colston Hall

A rendering of the new main hall

Sajid Javid, the UK’s secretary of state for communities and local government, has granted planning permission for the £48.8m transformation of Bristol venue Colston Hall.

The renovation plans, announced last February, will see the 150-year-old music venue expand its main hall, increasing capacity from its current 1,932, and see the main stage expanded to accommodate larger bands and production.

The Lantern, Colston Hall’s smaller second performance space, will be redeveloped into an “elegant and versatile” venue with flexible seating, while the venue’s cellars will also be opened up for the first time in a century, housing a new performance area and workshop spaces.

New education suites, meanwhile, will include new classrooms and a technology lab, as well as the National Centre for Inclusive Excellence, providing music-making opportunities for young people with disabilities.

Louise Mitchell, chief executive of Bristol Music Trust, which operates the Bristol City Council-owned venue, says: “Now our plans have been approved we’ve reached the final milestone as we approach the start of the hall’s transformation.

“We are incredibly grateful for the hard work and dedication of our partners and supporters who have got us to this stage.

“The hall hasn’t been updated since it opened in the 1950s, so it’s long overdue a transformational refurbishment that will give Bristol and the south west a world-class venue to be proud of as we make our detailed plans a reality.”

“We’ve reached the final milestone as we approach the start of the hall’s transformation”

The council has selected construction firm Willmott Dixon, which built the hall’s new foyer, completed in 2009, as the preferred bidder for the redevelopment.

Javid’s approval comes as Arts Council England confirms its commitment of £10 million towards the transformation – the largest single capital grant in south-west England – while a further £5m will be provided by UK exchequer.

“Bristol has an internationally renowned cultural offer which also makes a major contribution to the local economy,” says Bristol mayor Marvin Rees. “We are really pleased that Arts Council has committed this funding alongside our own investment and that of other city partners.

“There is no doubt that it will bring long-term benefits to people in a number of ways. First and foremost, it will make culture more accessible to everyone, but it will also help more people participate in the arts, improve education facilities for young people and attract more people to the city by providing a world-class music venue fit for the future.”

Bristol Music Trust last April announced it would look at renaming the venue to eradicate its ties to Edward Colston, a prominent local businessman and MP, owing to his ties to the Royal African Company, which was involved in the transatlantic slave trade. Other landmarks named for Colston, who founded schools, hospitals and almshouses in the city, include Colston Tower, several roads and three schools, as well as the Colston bun, a favourite in local bakeries.


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