Nearly there… Bristol Beacon’s set to reopen after £132m revamp

AFTER five years of work, costing tens of millions of pounds more than expected, the Bristol Beacon will reopen at the end of this month.

The venue, which first opened in 1867 as the Colston Hall, will host up to 800 events a year and is set to generate £13 million for the local economy in its first year.

As well as concert halls, the Bristol Beacon, run by the charitable Bristol Music Trust,  now has a fully accessible music education hub.

Its opening event, on November 30, will feature a new commission from the Bristol based Paraorchestra, who are working with celebrated electronic composer Surgeons Girl and audiovisual experts Limbic Cinema. 

Everyone is invited to The House Warming event on December 2, which is billed as ‘a huge free day-to-night party, created by Bristol, for Bristol’. It runs from 11am to 2am.

Bristol Beacon chief executive, Louise Mitchell, said: “The transformation of Bristol Beacon has been an epic project that has involved hundreds of highly skilled and talented people and a truly determined team to overcome the many unforeseen challenges this complex, historic building has thrown up over the last five years. 

“We can’t wait to open our doors and welcome back audiences, partners and friends for the start of this next chapter in the illustrious 155-year history. The Beacon will be one of the best concert facilities in Europe, with extraordinary new performance spaces to present every kind of music and a dynamic education centre for young musicians to develop and grow.”

Mayor Bristol Marvin Rees said: “We now stand on the edge of delivering a world class venue for our city.  Our drive to complete this work is fuelled by the knowledge that the completed venue will support over 270 jobs, generate over a quarter of a billion pounds of economic benefit for our local economy, and spearhead a social investment in our city’s communities through a high-quality music education centre and programme. 

“The 30-year lease agreed with Bristol Music Trust to run the venue on behalf of the city will ensure the Bristol Beacon 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.”

The lease has been renegotiated after original cost of £48million for the renovation rose several times because of unforeseen issues with the fabric of the Victorian building, including hollow pillars that were supposed to support roofs and unknown Elizabethan well shafts.

 The final bill came in at £132million.That includes £84million from the city council, instead of its initial £10million commitment, with other funders including Arts Council England,  Heritage Lottery Fund and the West of England Combined Authority.

Under the new deal, which has been backed by Arts Council England, Bristol Music Trust will hand part of its profits from the Beacon back to the council.

External auditors Grant Thornton criticised the council for its handling of the finances of the revamp. A “lessons learned” report is being prepared and is set to be published in February 2024.