By Jake Paterson, Music Editor
A world-class multi-dimensional venue, the Bristol Beacon opened its doors to the public for the first time since its closure for renovation in 2018. The transformation marks the second largest investment in the arts in England by Arts Council England this century, and the Grade II listed building welcomed Bristol back with a performance from the Paraorchestra, Surgeons Girl and accompanying audio-visual projection mapping from Limbic Cinema.
The redevelopment of the Colston Hall under its new name, the Bristol Beacon, saw leading experts from an array of fields including sustainability, acoustics and accessibility come together to design the state-of-the-art venue with the future in mind and to ensure its events will be open to all. 'You are all so welcome, tonight and every night,' Chief Executive Louise Mitchell said before the performance.
Boasting a wealth of highly versatile event spaces with capacities ranging form 2 to 1,200 people, the Beacon holds three main music spaces within its walls. The flagship space, Beacon Hall, offers world-class acoustics ready for any music genre. Lantern Hall combines Victorian architectural beauty with unbeatable sound quality, whilst the brand-new Weston Cellar is also open for more atmospheric and intimate gigs.
The night's performance, Trip The Light Fantastic, was an avant-garde and captivating blend of electronic and orchestral music, complete with a visual accompaniment that illuminated the new hall in spectacular fashion. Beginning with many of the performers in and amongst the crowd (we spent a few minutes talking to a bassoon player before the show), the piece moved between harmony and discordance, ensuring your attention was always held in a new and diverse way.
Charles Hazlewood, the Artistic Director at Paraorchestra, wrote in a press release that 'Bristol Beacon's reopening is a moment of enormous importance to the people, the culture and the city of Bristol - the lack of this venue for the past five years has felt like Bristol has been missing its beating heart. And now at long last the heart is being put back into the body and being fired up.'
I can't help but echo his sentiments: Beacon Hall was inspiring and breath-taking to witness, and is a mark of intent that will see the City stand on the national stage whilst reflecting its essential local ethos.
As part of the renovation, the Beacon has pledged to support the development of under-represented early career creatives, provide opportunities for Bristol's diverse emerging musicians, run the UK's first carbon neutral concert venue, alongside creating an annual programme of innovative orchestral work that will amplify the voices of disabled artists.
In a space where The Beatles, Ella Fitzgerald and David Bowie have all performed, the programme of events for the coming months includes: Thundercat, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Bombay Bicycle Club, Fatoumata Diawara, Fever Ray, and Paul Weller.
We cannot wait to see the venue become the integral part of Bristol's diverse music scene.
Bristol Beacon is now open daily to the public.