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Birmingham Conservatoire: £57 million music school and concert venue opens - with pictures and video

By Pete Madeley | Music | Published:

The West Midlands has music facilities to rival the very best in the world following the opening of a new £57 million music school and concert venue.

That is the view of Professor Julian Lloyd Webber, principal of Birmingham City University's impressive multi-purpose Conservatoire.

The stunning building, which opened last week and took two years to construct, features five public performance spaces - including a 500-seat concert hall, a 150-seat recital hall and a 100-seat organ studio.

In the Eastside Jazz Club it also boasts the only permanent jazz space in any UK conservatoire.

Virtual tour of Birmingham City University's new Conservatoire

It is the first purpose-built conservatoire to be built in the country for 30 years, and Prof Lloyd Webber says that due to funding constraints he thinks it will be the last.

“The new conservatoire emerges during a difficult time for arts funding and music education, meaning our role in training the world’s next great musicians and actors is more vital than ever,” he said at the launch.

“Personally, I don’t think there will be another one built in the UK.

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“Of course, a building is only as effective as the people inside it, and my team and I will continue our work to ensure that the future arts industry is not dominated by the wealthy elite.

“Our impressive programme of learning and widening music participation benefits thousands of children, young people and their families from diverse communities across England, and our new home will become the central hub of all these activities.”

Prof Lloyd Webber, who was appointed principal in 2015, said the facilities on offer at the site were of ‘world class standard’ but added that competing with other top rated music colleges was a challenge due to funding disparities.

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“The Royal College of Music and The Royal Academy [of Arts] are each fundraising over £4 million a year and they also get massive grants, which we had taken away from us because we are not a stand alone institution.

“So we are being hit on all sides, which is very tough on the university because we are completely dependent on them.

“It’s an awkward relationship on both sides. They feel under pressure, and we feel under funded, which is no criticism of them, but in comparison with other centres we are a much leaner operation.”

He added that the conservatoire would be appointing in-house fundraisers in the near future in a bid to boost the coffers.

Paul Faulkner, CEO of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said the site was the latest in a series of innovative developments across the region that would help to boost the West Midlands economy.

“It’s yet another piece of world class infrastructure in the region that will attract the very best talent,” he said.

“It can only add to the momentum we have here in the region with our economy. We’re really bad at bigging ourselves up in the West Midlands, but when you look at venues like this, and the Symphony Hall, you can see we are creating something really special.”

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, said he was looking forward to seeing the conservatoire ‘in full swing’.

“Last time I was there was during my campaign when Julian kindly showed myself and the Culture Secretary Karen Bradley around what was then only a building site,” he said.

“But it was clear even then that this will be a truly world class facility, and a huge addition to the culture on offer in the city, which is really important as we all aim to raise the aspirations of Birmingham and the West Midlands.”

The site, on Jennens Road in the city centre, replaces the former conservatoire at Adrian Boult Hall which is due to be bulldozed as part of the regeneration of the Chamberlain Square area.

Standing five storeys high it features private rehearsal rooms and dedicated teaching spaces for musicians and more than 70 practice rooms.

It was designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and built by Galliford Try using 400,000 bricks.

Double and triple glazed windows have been used to achieve the onerous acoustic requirements, supported by bespoke timber panelling throughout the building.

The venue’s inaugural season is set to start on March 11 with a Royal Gala concert performed by the Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra in the main hall.

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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