Construction work is starting on a £6 million project to transform St George’s Bristol into a world-class concert venue.
The independent music and spoken word venue, just off Park Street, is working with south-west based construction firm Midas Group to deliver this bold and ambitious project.
St George’s will re-launch in spring 2018 after a tight one-year build schedule, with a stunning new pavilion-style extension.
The registered charity has received funding from Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Bristol City Council, charitable trusts, corporates, major donors and crowdfund supporters. St George’s has just £240,000 still to raise.
The extension, designed by award-winning architects Patel Taylor, will feature a multi-purpose spaces for performances, education workshops and venue hire; a café bar, which will be open during the day and evening, and improved access for people with disabilities.
There will also be interpretation displays in the Crypt, the extension and gardens, telling long-forgotten stories of St George’s and Georgian Bristol, as well as activities for schools, families and coach groups. Admission to the Crypt will be free of charge and open to visitors, as well as audience members.
Befitting a concert hall with some of the best acoustics in the world, the foyer will feature a dramatic glass sculpture designed by Bristol-based artist Luke Jerram. Named ‘Apollo’ after the Ancient Greek God of music, the exquisite structure is made of 100 sponsored roundels.
St George’s ‘Building a Sound Future’ project will create exciting new spaces for audience members, artists, families and schoolchildren including its Cosmos Children’s Community Choir.
It will also help give the charity a financially sustainable future – especially important at a time when medium-sized music venues are increasingly under threat of closure.
The venue is famed for its acoustic, which attracts leading classical, jazz, folk, soul and world music artists. These include the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, pianist Paul Lewis, virtuoso violinist Kyung Wha Chung, and contemporary artists Bjork, Cerys Matthews, The Unthanks, Courtney Pine and Omar.
Midas moves onto site, following extensive archaeological activity and preparatory ground works.
St George’s Bristol will hold concerts from now until the end of May, and from the end of September to Christmas, before the re-launch in spring 2018.
Chief Executive of St George’s Bristol, Suzanne Rolt, commented:
“St George’s is now embarking on its greatest adventure to date. For the last 40 years we have attracted some of the world’s best musicians.
“This ambitious project will give us, and Bristol, a world-class music venue. For the first time ever we will be open seven days a week during the day as well as evenings. People will be able to explore the interpretation space and enjoy food and drink in the café bar.
“The new extension will also help the charity generate revenue to care for our beautiful building and gardens, to continue to attract world-class artists, and also run our education and outreach programmes. Plans for the opening celebrations are still at an early stage but we intend to work with established artists, community groups and partners.”
Derek Quinn, Executive Director at Midas Construction, part of the Midas Group, said:
“As an established Bristol-based regional contractor, we are really excited to be working on this wonderfully designed project for the city. We are committed to employing locally wherever possible and look forward to creating a positive and lasting legacy for St George’s and future generations.”
Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said:
“St George’s is an important Bristol venue with a significant programme that delights audiences from Bristol and much further afield. We are very pleased to be able to support them through our National Lottery funded Capital programme towards a more financially sustainable future.”
Nerys Watts, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said:
“Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we’re delighted to support this project which will ensure the physical heritage of the Grade II* Listed building and its decades of culture heritage remain an integral part of St George’s exciting future. It’s fantastic to see work begin and we look forward to seeing the benefits it will have for Bristol’s culture and communities.”