The Bristol Music Trust was formed by BCC in 2011 to blend this popular asset of the city with the expertise necessary to sustain a high quality and diverse programme of events. Since then BMT has exceeded expectations and received accolades from the Arts Council, the press and national education bodies for its high quality work, music development and the value and prestige it has brought to the city. It's work has been supported to varying degrees by all party groups on Bristol City Council.
The main auditorium building has been a limiting factor for many years. It’s widespread acknowledgement as an excellent venue and the quality of its management has achieved exceptional levels of grant funding but this is predicated on a tight timescale which has now reached the point where after so much prevarication by BCC over the last few years a decision can no longer be delayed if this project is to be viable. Alongside this is the programme necessarily already set in motion to scale down and close the performances at the Colston Hall to facilitate the refurbishment. The cost of reversing this and setting the whole programme back in motion again would be a critical blow to the continuation of the Hall as a major performance venue.
It is right that detailed study has been made of the risks especially when finances are so tight. This extended time that this process has taken has often strained the credibility with funding bodies. However the risks to BCC have been progressively minimised as the unknown costs have been identified and accounted for. The timetable between closure and reopening has been carefully considered and factored into detailed business planning. There is an acknowledged financial gap that is being reduced by successful fundraising from BMT who have already raised £30 million from institutions, grants and private philanthropy. There is a commitment from BMT staff and trustees to continue fundraising until the full sum has been achieved.
Failure to commit now would result in the loss of this funding and so this resource for Bristol alongside significant and hard to recover reputational damage. This is likely to impact on future funding for the city for local projects and maybe on all regularly funded organisations. It would jeopardise exciting plans in an advanced stage to further develop BMT’s educational offer to the city.
The Liberal Democrats want to see the Colston Hall as part of the city’s offer to its citizens and as an essential attraction for new people and investment in its growth. This Cabinet must commit without further delay.