Colston Hall Redevelopment Approved

Multiple sources will fund $68-million renovation at 150-year-old venue

  • by Gideon Gottfried
  • Published: February 26, 2018

A rendering shows the main Colston Hall in Bristol, England, after improvements, which are scheduled to be complete in 2020. (Courtesy Bristol Music Trust)

Colston Hall in Bristol, England, has received the City Council's go-ahead for its planned redevelopment.

The City Council owns the building, which has a capacity of 2,000 and is run by the Bristol Music Trust. The hall celebrated its 150th anniversary last fall; after two fires and a major renovation, the current hall is its fourth incarnation. It became an important venue for rock concerts in the 1960s and has played host to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and David Bowie, among many others.

The council has chosen Willmott Dixon as contractor for the construction work, which will cost 48.8 million pounds ($68 million). The company was also responsible for Colston Hall's foyer space, built in 2009 for 20 million pounds.

No signifiicant work has been done to the rest of the building for 60 years. The plan is to transform the hall into a modern-day concert venue while retaining its Victorian charm. Among other things, the cellar space will be transformed into a new venue, and the two current halls, the main Colston Hall and the Lantern, will be refurbished. The main auditorium will receive a larger stage, new canopy, balconies and seats, a fore-stage lift and new wall finishes, among other things.

The venue operators think the changes will increase the building's capacity by 30 percent and the number of performances by 54 percent, as well as create 50 additional jobs.

The refurbishment, which will launch this summer and is scheduled for completion in 2020, marks Bristol's biggest redevelopment program in the arts sector ever, according to the announcement. Until then, the hall's foyer will be used for live events.

"The hall hasn't been updated since it opened in the 1950s, so it's a long overdue transformational refurbishment that will give Bristol and the Southwest a world-class venue to be proud of as we make our detailed plans a reality," said Louise Mitchell, chief executive of Bristol Music Trust.

Bristol's mayor, Marvin Rees, said he was "really pleased that [Arts Council England] 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."

The public has the opportunity to buy naming right to seats in the venue for 20 years, by making a monthly donation of as little as 5 pounds over four years. So far, more than $57 million has been raised. Funding sources besides the City Council and the Arts Council include the UK Treasury, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the West of England Combined Authority, as well as local donors and trusts and foundations.

Clare Jack, the former development director at Bath Festivals recently took on the role as chief operating officer of Bristol Music Trust.

  • by Gideon Gottfried
  • Published: February 26, 2018