The stage is set for the long-anticipated reopening of the Bristol Beacon and the excitement around opening night is building by the day. On Thursday 30 November, the doors to one of our city’s oldest and most loved concert halls will open once again and welcome back audiences for the first time in over five years.
From the moment the final bars of James Bay’s “Hold Back the River” rang out across the hall and the audience headed home on the night of Saturday 2 June 2018, the venue, and our city around it, began a journey that’s taken many twists and turns along the way.
The building itself proved to be somewhat of an enigma as the layers of history were peeled back by the builders. Surprises were thrown up with hidden wells, hollow pillars, and a wealth of previously unknown history hidden behind the walls. There was asbestos, rotting wood, chimneys (so many chimneys) – all now taken care of, painstakingly restored, and improved to deliver the world class venue we always aimed to bring to Bristol.
If redeveloping a building jam-packed with secrets wasn’t enough, the project team have also had to contend with the impacts of events very far beyond their control. A global pandemic which limited activity on site for months; the economic impacts of Brexit and a national cost of living crisis; a global energy price crisis, driven in part by the war in Ukraine. After facing those challenges, we can now begin to reflect on the journey that we’ve been on.
Throughout this journey, we have been committed to the vision that we share with our funding partners, of delivering a world class concert venue that can act as a catalyst for local creativity, social investment, and economic stimulus.
I’m grateful to our city for sticking with this project despite the challenges it’s faced and the trials we’ve had to overcome. I’m also grateful to all those who have invested in this project and to those whose effort has made this a reality – the builders, planners, architects, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, and all the other tradespeople involved in this unique build. I’m humbled by their patience, their persistence and their support.
Our vision for the investment made in the venue has been shared throughout by our delivery partners, Bristol Music Trust (BMT) and Willmott Dixon. Our drive to complete this work is fuelled by the belief in that shared vision and the knowledge that the completed venue will support over 270 jobs, generate over £13 million a year for the local economy and spearhead delivering a social investment in the city’s communities through a high-quality music education centre and programme.
This social return on the investment made by the city has always been high on our priority list. So too is the need to ensure the venue provides a financial return for our city and operates as a commercial venue that can support the delivery of the community level work that’s so important to Bristol communities.
To achieve these aims, I am delighted to announce that we have reached an agreement with BMT to continue their work and run the venue on behalf of the city. This agreement will see BMT take on a 30-year lease of the venue which will operate both as one of our city’s premier music and entertainment venues and as a major new hub for music education and community engagement.
This latest agreement is the last big step before the doors swing open on 30 November. It comes as the last of many big, and thoughtful steps over the five-year journey that we’ve been on together.
During that time, the venue has responded to the voices of many to update its name following a three-year process of engagement across Bristol. This change reflects a culture of listening to audiences and responding to the needs of communities. In doing so, we’ve reaffirmed the Bristol Beacon as a venue for our entire city and all audiences, now and into the future.
As we look forward to the coming years, we begin to see the seeds of investment and collaboration planted across our city take root. The reopening of the Bristol Beacon represents one of a number of projects that are being delivered by this administration that will secure our city’s prosperity and resilience for future generations to come.
Events to look out for: