FAQs

We’ve been asked lots of questions about our transformation plans in response to our Transformation campaign. Here are our answers.

Why has Colston Hall decided to change its name?

  • What will the new name be?

    It’s too early to say at this stage. We need to ensure that we get the right name for the Hall that will take it forward for another 150 years. We believe this is about more than a sign above the door. We believe that the new name should reflect a new vision for the Hall and its role in the city. That is why we are consulting widely with people to help shape our vision.

    To find out more about our consultation process, click here.

  • What made you decide to change the name?

    Since the start of our transformation campaign, which we launched in September 2014, we’ve stated that we would be reviewing the name as part of our redevelopment. Our Board of Trustees unanimously made the decision that when we reopen the new building, it will be with a new name. We made the announcement in April 2017, well before the transformation began in June 2018, to make our intentions clear.

    To read our original statement, click here.

  • The Hall is 150 years old. Why has it taken so long to think about changing the name?

    Bristol Music Trust only took over the management of Colston Hall in 2011. As soon as we launched our redevelopment plans in 2014, we announced our commitment to reviewing the name. However, the Hall is a major Bristol institution and changing its name and identity is a move that needs careful thought and discussion. Having listened to a broad range of opinions and ideas, Bristol Music Trust is committed to reopening the transformed Hall with a new name, and we are consulting widely to shape a new vision and name.

  • Will Bristol residents be able to vote on a new name for the Hall?

    We are talking to audiences and other stakeholder groups about the role of the Hall in the community and the name, but we won’t be putting the name to a public vote.

    The name will form part of an in-depth rebranding process, where customers’ views and the Hall’s vision and values will be used as part of a creative approach to finding a new name.

  • Is Bristol Music Trust trying to erase or censure the city’s past?

    We are in no way trying to erase recognition of Bristol’s role in the slave trade, and we recognise the importance of remembering the part this city played in those events as a way of shaping our city for the better moving forward. We want to embrace our position at the centre of this naming discussion to work beyond the building and help lead conversations across Bristol about the history.

    However, as the South West’s flagship concert venue, we also see changing the name as part of our wider redevelopment plans as an opportunity to make a clear statement that the name Colston, and its connections to the transatlantic slave trade, do not represent the values of Bristol Music Trust.

  • Who was Edward Colston?

    Edward Colston was a merchant and slave trader as well as a high-profile philanthropist who donated money to found schools and almshouses in Bristol and was then commemorated across the city in streets and landmarks. The first Colston Hall opened in 1867, 146 years after Edward Colston died, and none of his money was used to fund the Hall.

  • Was Colston Hall built with Edward Colston’s money?

    No. Colston Hall was not built with Edward Colston’s money. It was built 146 years after he died, in 1867, on the site of the former Colston Boys’ School on Colston Street.

  • Is this a response to campaigns to change the name?

    Bristol Music Trust’s decision to change the name is not a direct response to any particular campaign. This is an issue that has been ongoing for many, many years. Ever since the Trust took over the running of the Hall in 2011 and launched our transformation campaign in 2014 we have committed to reviewing the name.

    We have thought carefully about this. Our core mission is to provide Bristol with an inclusive and welcoming music venue and music education service open to all. We feel that a crucial part of achieving this mission is to open a transformed venue in 2020 under a new name.

    We will work with communities on how best to acknowledge the history of the building and its association with Edward Colston in the newly transformed hall.

  • Is this just an attempt to make money from selling naming rights?

    We are an arts charity, not a profit-making organisation. Were any money to be raised from naming rights, it would go towards the transformation of Colston Hall into a venue fit for the 21st century. However at this stage selling commercial naming rights for the whole building is looking unlikely.

What is the need for Transformation?

  • The foyer was recently refurbished, why do you need more redevelopment?

    The building of our foyer which cost £20m in 2009 was Phase One of our transformation plans. This money was invested in the foyer and exterior of the building only, making it accessible and more customer friendly as well as environmentally friendly. In fact the last time there was major refurbishment, artists like Doris Day, Perry Como and Dean Martin topped the UK charts – it was 1954 and The Beatles haven’t even written their first song!

    Phase two of our plans will transform both concert halls, education facilities and underground spaces, with the addition of a third venue.

  • Why does Colston Hall need more money spent on it?

    Colston Hall is in important part of Bristol’s distinctive reputation as a vibrant, exciting city. We’re a driving force behind our city’s arts and culture economy.

    300,000 people visit us each year to enjoy an incredible variety of artists, from big stars like Jimmy Carr and Russell Brand to Stereophonics and Sam Smith, events such as the Bristol International Classical Season and Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival, as well as the programming in The Lantern with rising stars such as Kamasi Washington and Benjamin Clementine.

    Colston Hall programs across all genres and is unique for bringing events to the city that couldn’t happen anywhere else, such as Goldie and the Heritage Orchestra in the Harbourside, John Grant with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and Fast Forward Festival. We also give unparalleled opportunity for emerging artists to bring their talent to wider audiences.

    Our sister organisation, Bristol Plays Music, is the first education music hub in the UK to be based at a major concert venue. We owe it to our audiences, performers and the 15,000 local schoolchildren at 130 schools whose music education is supported by the hub to redevelop our facilities and ensure they are fit for purpose.

  • What will you spend £48.8 million on?

    The investment will transform Colston Hall into one of the best arts and learning facilities in the country.

    New classrooms and a technology lab will help create an inspiring base for Bristol Plays Music. And, at last, disabled children will learn at the Hall for the first time with a building fully accessible to all. Our ambition will help establish Bristol as the UK capital of young people’s music by 2020 and create a benchmark for other music hubs across the nation.

    We’ll revitalise our two current halls, improving both acoustics and comfort. More flexible space will mean a wider variety of performances and artists. A third hall in our historic victorian cellars will also be opened. As a result, our estimate is that we’ll boost the local economy by £100 million over the first five years.

    Businesses and people with jobs in Bristol benefit because our audiences spend money at places other than the Hall.

  • Why do we need a Transformed Colston Hall? Why isn't the money being invested in a Bristol Arena?

    Colston Hall has been an iconic hub for music and the arts for almost 150 years – why wouldn’t we want to redevelop it and ensure its future for the next 150?

    Colston Hall and the proposals for an Arena in Bristol are two very different venues that will complement each other. Colston Hall is a more intimate concert hall for smaller audiences. We’ll work alongside an Arena to ensure that we provide a great mix of musical arts and entertainment, making Bristol one of the UK’s top cities for venues.

    It also is more than just about performance – Colston Hall’s role is also about providing the musical education for the whole of the city and beyond, as well as supporting the commercial development of smaller scale music enterprises.

  • What will the impact be on music education in Bristol?

    The transformation will create the UK’s first National Centre for Advanced Training for young musicians with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, with the ambition to do for disabled music what the Paralympics has done for disabled sport.

    Our sister organisation, Bristol Plays Music, is the first education music hub in the UK to be based at a major concert venue. The transformation of the hall will ensure our facilities are fit for purpose for the 15,000 local schoolchildren at 130 schools whose music education is supported by the hub.

What will be improved with the Transformed Hall?

  • Will you do something about the air conditioning or heating?

    Yes. We know our current system is old fashioned. Our current air condition and heating systems were installed in 1954.  The natural air conditioning is piped in from the outside. So when it’s warm outside, it is warm inside and vice versa during the winter. Our new system will adopt the standards of other major concerts venues. This includes adopting high sustainability standards using our existing solar panels and more efficient power systems.

  • Will there be more leg room?

    Yes. The current seat arrangement reflects the fact no refurbishment has taken place for over 60 years. The new halls will contain comfortable seating where audience comfort will be a top priority.

  • What will happen to the current amazing acoustics?

    Retaining our world class acoustics are a very high priority part of our design for the transformed venue. We are working with the best acousticians in the business to ensure that our redeveloped auditoriums will have international standard acoustics across a range of genres.

  • What are the key benefits to Bristol and South West?

    We will:


    – Achieve improved music education standards for the children and young people in Bristol;

    – Boost the Bristol economy by hundreds of millions of pounds in the first five years;

    – Create a revitalised concert hall worthy of the 21st century.

How can I help?

  • How can I support the Transformation campaign?

    If you want to support Colston Hall’s Transformation campaign there are currently four ways you can make a donation.

    You can:

    – Name a Seat;
    – Join the CHIME Circle;
    – Become a Major Donor;
    – or Make a Donation Today.

    Find out more about how you can make a donation to our Transformation campaign here.

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world-class
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venue for Bristol