The £13million project to transform the visitor experience to Symphony Hall has created exciting new spaces and opportunities for the community at large to participate in and enjoy
Is there a greater performance venue in the UK, the world even, than Symphony Hall? We don’t think so. And what’s more neither do the stars who love coming to Birmingham and sampling the incredible atmosphere, acoustics and audiences. It’s big news then that during the pandemic lockdown that has crippled so much of the entertainment and hospitality industry, Symphony Hall was actually working at getting even better.
The last 18 months has seen more than £13million – money raised before Covid struck – spent on transforming Symphony Hall’s entrance and public spaces to make them exciting performance areas in their own right. The previous, rather soulless areas outside the main hall have given way to a sparkling new look with brighter, more welcoming bars and cafes, new seating and with entrances sited at each corner of the venue in addition to the access via the International Conference Centre.
The new Jennifer Blackwell performance space – named after one of Symphony Hall’s greatest patrons and supporters and officially opened by Prince Edward last month – gives local artists the chance to perform as part of daily programmes of free and affordable events and activities. To complete the revamp, Performance Birmingham, the charity that manages Symphony Hall and Town Hall, has been rebranded with a new name, B:Music.
Nick Reed, chief executive of B:Music, said: “Symphony Hall is recognised as one of the best concert halls in the world. What we didn’t have previously was the feeling of entering a great cultural building. Now people coming here can enter straight from our wonderful Centenary Square. The feedback to the changes from artists and from everyone has been incredible. We are very proud of what we have achieved.”
The project, titled Making an Entrance, targeted a number of key areas. First and foremost, to make a visit to Symphony Hall more welcoming for audiences, but also to create an environment and spaces for more informal programmes of performance, to encourage even greater development of music and talent, and to foster greater community involvement and participation. “Music will play a powerful role in reuniting communities after the isolation and hardship of the last 18 months,” said Nick. “We want Symphony Hall to be a leading light for that reconnection.”
While Making an Entrance improves the experience and makes Symphony Hall even more attractive to mainstream acts, B:Music hasn’t forgotten its crucial role in supporting the grass roots of the arts world. This includes helping disadvantaged people from the Midlands by offering music lessons and workshops, creating rehearsal spaces in its venues, providing paid opportunities to perform and supporting funding bid applications.
Other community initiatives include the likes of Jazzlines, the free summer school course for local young people, and a recently launched collaboration with Neighbourhd to help celebrate up and coming artists from the West Midlands music scene. B:Music knows the importance of appealing to a younger, more diverse audience as there is still a misconception that Symphony Hall is for classical lovers and the privileged few. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth and the Making an Entrance project has reinforced the fact that the exciting Symphony Hall complex is for all the people, no matter what their background.