Re­vamped Sym­phony Hall de­signs re­vealed New en­trance to open up world-fa­mous mu­sic venue

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Carl Jack­son Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter

THE plans for a £12 mil­lion re­vamp of Birm­ing­ham’s Sym­phony Hall have fi­nally been re­vealed.

It is hoped the ‘mod­est’ ex­ten­sion will gen­er­ate more in­come as the coun­cil slashes grants to the arts sec­tor by £1 mil­lion a year.

The wall fac­ing Cen­te­nary Square will be re­moved to make way for a new glass fa­cade with a ded­i­cated en­trance to Sym­phony Hall as op­posed to the one in­side The In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion Cen­tre (ICC).

The ex­tra space will ac­com­mo­date new bars, cor­po­rate hospi­tal­ity suites, learn­ing and ed­u­ca­tion spa­ces with the box of­fice to be re­lo­cated.

Per­for­mances Birm­ing­ham Ltd, which runs the con­cert venue, sub­mit­ted de­signs for the facelift to Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil last week.

It is hoped the project can be com­pleted in time to host the Con­ser­va­tive Party Con­fer­ence in 2020, although the venue will re­main open dur­ing con­struc­tion.

Sym­phony Hall was of­fi­cially opened in 1991 by the Queen.

Page\Park Ar­chi­tects, which has de­signed the scheme, said the venue lacked its own identi- ty “within the mono­chrome and cor­po­rate feel­ing cir­cu­la­tion and pub­lic spa­ces” of the ICC.

It also de­scribed the cur­rent foy­ers as ‘tired’ and in need of a ‘re­fresh’.

The ar­chi­tects said: “Like most cul­tural or­gan­i­sa­tions Per­for­mances Birm­ing­ham are seek­ing ways to in­crease their fi­nan­cial re­silience in the face of re­duc­tions in pub­lic sub­sidy – they need to make the build­ing work harder to make more money.

“Cur­rently the foy­ers of the Sym­phony Hall only re­ally work in per­for­mance mode, leav­ing a lot of time when the foy­ers are un­der­used.

“A key ob­jec­tive of the project is to ac­ti­vate the foy­ers spa­ces out­side per­for­mance hours – to bring day­time ac­tiv­ity through an en­hanced learn­ing and par­tic­i­pa­tion pro­gramme and an ex­panded con­cert and event pro­gramme, in­crease spend on bars and cater­ing, and pro­vide rentable spa­ces for hospi­tal­ity and cor­po­rate events.”

It added: “With its trans­par­ent glazed fa­cade of­fer­ing views into the foy­ers full of vis­i­ble ac­tiv­ity – stacked from caf to chil­dren’s per­for­mance to cor­po­rate event – it is in­tended that the new foy­ers as­sist Per­for­mance Birm­ing­ham Ltd to grow their au­di­ence to both in­crease their fi­nan­cial re­silience and re­flect the rich di­ver­sity of the city.”

Sym­phony Hall an­nounced the £12 mil­lion devel­op­ment ti­tled ‘Mak­ing an En­trance’ ear­lier this year.

While in re­cent weeks the city coun­cil went out to con­sul­ta­tion on its plans to make £18 mil­lion worth of fresh cuts next year.

One pro­posal is to re­duce arts grants by one third to save £1 mil­lion. A host of or­gan­i­sa­tions are set to lose out in­clud­ing Sym­phony Hall the Town Hall, Birm­ing­ham Royal Bal­let and Birm­ing­ham Reper­tory The­atre among oth­ers.

The coun­cil stated: “It will be for the ma­jor cul­tural or­gan­i­sa­tions to man­age the im­pli­ca­tions of a re­duced grant. It is likely that au­di­ence devel­op­ment and out­reach pro­grammes will be re­duced, there will be a re­duc­tion in artis­tic devel­op­ment for new pro­duc­tions and a po­ten­tial in­crease to ticket prices.”

The coun­cil’s sav­ings pro­pos­als are yet to be for­mally ap­proved.

> The new en­trance to Sym­phony Hall which will over­look Cen­te­nary Square

> The cur­rent Sym­phony Hall de­sign has been un­changed since 1991

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