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Wolverhampton Council 'short-sighted' over Civic Hall wedding plans despite scrapping historic organ

By Jack Averty | Wolverhampton | News | Published:

Wolverhampton Council has been accused of "short sightedness" after announcing it wants to hold weddings at the Civic Hall – weeks after its "priceless" organ was sent to landfill.

Enthusiasts argue the unique Compton organ, that used to be housed in the Civic, would have been the "perfect" accompaniment to any wedding, with the council looking to hold such events when the Civic Hall reopens in 2021 – five years later than planned.

The latest twist in the organ saga has caused yet more fury among the organ community, who are still reeling from the fact the historic organ was scrapped in the first place.

One source told the Express & Star: "It just gets more absurd, you could not make it up. You scrap the best wedding feature the Civic Hall has and then decide you want to hold weddings there – that's Wolverhampton Council for you."

The council confirmed it has no plans to replace the scrapped organ, meaning any organ it does bring in for weddings will likely be a portable, synthesised one with speakers.

The more than 6,000 pipes of the Civic Hall's organ have been taken to landfill

Tettenhall councillor and classical musician Jane Stevenson said: "The organ would have been a perfect backdrop for a wedding and now the council will not be able to get anything anywhere near as good in.

"This just reinforces how short-sighted they have been. Other places are restoring their organs and hosting events around them whereas ours has just been scrapped.

"Of course it would have been expensive but the council did not give others time to plan to try and save it. I remember when I was a young musician we helped save the organ at St. John's Church but that took about two years.

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"The whole situation with the Civic Hall organ has been ridiculous."

Cannock Chase Organ Club confirmed the Compton organ could "definitely" have been used for weddings, citing the example of the Shropshire Theatre Organ Trust which advertises its Wurlitzer theatre organ for use in weddings at the ButterMarket in the county town.

A Wolverhampton Council spokesman said: "The organ sat in the roof of the Civic Hall and needed to be removed to enable better ventilation for fire safety and to enable adjustments to the stage area to help attract bigger shows.

“The removal of the organ, approved by Historic England, was announced in 2016 as part of the wider Civic Halls major restoration and improvement scheme.

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“Unfortunately, the council was forced to change the plans to relocate the organ pipes due to the discovery of historic asbestos contamination in them and, therefore, the huge cost entailed in restoring them.

“The new-look Civic Halls will stay true to its Grade II-listed heritage while at the same time creating a world-class venue able to cater for a wide range of events.

“Since 2016 more than 100 couples have happily tied the knot at the council’s other city wedding venues – Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Bantock House Museum, and City Archives – and the council is confident it will be the same story at the Civic Halls.”

Jack Averty

By Jack Averty
Senior Reporter - @javerty_star

Reporter with the Express & Star, based at head office in Wolverhampton

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