Bristol Beacon prepares to open doors after £132m refurb

With just one week to go until Bristol Beacon officially opens the doors following its five-year, once-in-a-generation transformation, the charity welcomed key funders, partners and supporters inside for a special preview event.

This was the first event to take place in the transformed venue and first opportunity to see the new spaces and enjoy music in them.

The venue is now ready for use, with just final details left to do over the next few days, and a team of up to 250 on site each day working to complete it.

Guests were treated to a private view throughout the building and the first view of the array of incredible art installations commissioned as part of the transformation.

The evening saw speeches from Bristol Beacon chief executive Louise Mitchell, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees, and Arts Council England Area Director South West, Phil Gibby, and a live performance from homegrown Bristol artist Lady Nade.

Broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby then hosted an In Conversation With lead architect Mark Lewis from Levitt Bernstein, public art curator Theresa Bergne, acoustician Bob Essert and heritage commissioner and consultant Cathy Mager, before a performance from Steven Osbourne, performing Schubert Piano Sonata No 22 in A Major, D959.

The £132m transformation has only been made possible by an extraordinary range of funders and supporters.

At the event Bristol Music Trust thanked them for their visionary support: Bristol City Council, Arts Council England, HM Treasury, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, WECA, Bristol Water, Burges Salmon, Foyle Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Jack and Monica Britton Trust, St James Place, John James Bristol Foundation, Nisbet Trust, Quartet Community Foundation and The Wolfson Foundation.

Over 9,000 individuals have made one off donations to the transformation project, with contributions ranging from £5 a month as a seat namer up to a £1m gift.

Louise Mitchell said: “The skill, hard work and love poured into this huge refurbishment has resulted in one of the best and most accessible performance and music education spaces in Europe. What excites all of us here is the potential of the new Bristol Beacon,  which will allow us to continue delivering transformative musical moments to all Bristolians. From weekly one to one opportunities for care experienced young people, to sessions with those living with dementia, in hospitals, in community halls and in 92% of Bristol’s schools, for 7,000 hours of music lessons a week. It all comes back to this building – it is our engine, it is our home, it’s Bristol’s stage for everyone.”

Phil Gibby, Arts Council England Area Director South West, said: “We can’t wait for artists and audiences to experience the new Bristol Beacon and its world-class programme of live performance. Thanks to the long-term commitment and investment from Bristol City Council, Arts Council England and other stakeholders, the Beacon has transformed its concert halls and visitor spaces, prioritising access to music and learning opportunities for all.

“This major refurbishment cements the Beacon as one of Europe’s flagship venues and positions it as a powerhouse for the showcasing and development of local talent. We are very proud to support this ambitious project as part of our 10-year strategy Let’s Create – future proofing access to arts and culture for all so that every local citizen reaps the benefits for generations to come.”

Stuart McLeod, director of England – London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We’re so proud to have been a part of making history with this transformational, once-in-a-lifetime project. Bristol Beacon is a shining example of heritage restoration, highlighting the rich musical legacy of Bristol and the wider South West region. Supported with money raised by National Lottery players, the project has resulted in beautiful and inspiring spaces that are inclusive and welcoming for the entire community as well as a wider education programme of activities to benefit the people of Bristol.”

Andrew and Anne Nisbet, The Nisbet Trust, said: “The Nisbet Trust is proud to invest in this important musical institution. We decided to support the project due to the huge social value of the charity’s work and as a gift to the city’s music scene.”