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Bristol SU unveils its new spaces inside Senate House

The refurbished Senate House is now home to two new SU spaces at the heart of the university campus, Bristol SU Loft and The Beckford. Ahead of their opening, Epigram took a first look round inside.

By Filiz Emily Gurer, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Ahead of the opening of the SU’s new spaces, Epigram took a first look round inside the Senate House development.

The refurbished Senate House is now home to two new SU spaces at the heart of the university campus, Bristol SU Loft and The Beckford. Additionally, the SU Living Room is also being extended to offer students more space for relaxation.

These spaces have been campaigned for by SU officers, who have been pressing for students to have more space in a more centralised location, and for the SU to be a more visible and available presence on campus.

The refurbishment was due to be finished and the new SU spaces intended to be opened in 2020, but were delayed by the pandemic interrupting construction work.

The Bristol SU Loft will be the first of the new spaces to open, opening up to students on 17 May.

Located on the Upper Ground Floor of Senate House, the SU Loft is intended to be ‘more of a collaborative co-working space,’ providing a space for students to work, relax and meet friends, with facilities also available for students to reheat food and make hot drinks. The new spaces benefit from a large number of plants throughout the building.

The Students’ Union hopes that it will be ‘an intuitive space’ and ‘a more relaxed area to work in’, with Rebecca Evans, the SU’s Head of Events, Programming and Venues commenting that the SU will ‘listen to students and see what they want from this space.’

The SU is keen that students use the SU Loft and feed back their ideas through QR codes placed around the space, as well as on a physical feedback wall.

Whilst current COVID-19 restrictions mean student groups won't be able to book to use SU Loft this academic year, it is hoped that from autumn the SU Loft will provide a space for university societies and networks to use, with the SU working to implement a booking system for use of the space.  

The second of the new spaces being unveiled is The Beckford, a new bar by the SU, opening on 21 June, which will be open until 11pm.

The new bar is named after legendary Bristol figure, Carmen Beckford MBE, a figurehead for race relations in Bristol, who was one of the founders of St Paul's Carnival.

The Beckford will feature a mural of Carmen, painted by local artist Natasha Sweeting.

The SU’s new bar is part of the new Source Marketplace in Senate House and will serve hot drinks, soft drinks, alcohol, as well as pizzas, which students can order from a pizza ordering stand in the bar. Students will be able to bring food from the Source Marketplace to eat at the Beckford.

The average price for a draught lager or cider at The Beckford will be £2.90, with bottles of alcoholic and alcohol free drinks ranging from £2.00 to £4.20.

The Beckford will not be bookable for society socials, but the SU recommends that societies continue to hold their events at the Balloon Bar, which will continue to be ‘the centre for student activity after hours.’

The SU stated that they ‘ wanted to make these [new] spaces feel distinct and that’s why we still want to run socials in the Balloon Bar… it’s a big space, really well setup for gigs, open mics, pub quizzes and we wanted to keep the Balloon bar as having that USP, so it does still drive students over there.’

Speaking to Epigram about the new spaces at Senate House, the SU’s Union Affairs Officer, Julio Mkok said, ‘I think it is a space that has been long overdue, especially for a Russell Group University that does not have anything extracurricular and non-academic in the centre of campus.

‘I think students will not only be happy but they will finally feel like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders for somewhere to relax after their classes.’

Commenting on his role in the process of the development of the new spaces, Julio said ‘I have been heavily involved, but of course I can’t take full credit, it has definitely been a team effort, but managing the different stakeholders and actually getting the space, getting the funding, and the resources and the time for it has been a difficult part but definitely worth it for the students.’

Whilst SU officers will continue to be based at the Richmond Building on Queens Road, the SU will be more visible in the Bristol SU Loft at Senate House, as the SU increases its presence at the heart of the university campus.

The refurbished Senate House will also be home to the University's Global Lounge, PGR Hub and Student Services.

The Beckford and the Bristol SU Loft will remain open throughout the summer, with the SU Living Room closing on 10 June for extension works to take place, and due to reopen in September.

Featured Image: Epigram/Filiz Gurer

What do you think of the new SU spaces at Senate House? Let us know!