Bradford’s recently refurbished St George’s Hall has seen a huge increase in the number of visitors since it reopened in February 2019, after a multi-million pound restoration project.
A report to be discussed at Bradford Council’s Executive Committee shows that there have been around 9,000 more people through the doors of the stunning concert hall, than there were during an equivalent period prior to its £9.8m refurbishment.
The restoration of the 1,350 seater concert hall dubbed ‘the people’s palace’ was made possible with funding from Bradford Council and The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The extensive refurbishment of this much loved building included a wide-range of work both to its exterior and interior. As well as major works to the roof, windows, electrics and stonework, the front-of-house areas have been increased, where possible, and have been decorated sympathetically to suit the heritage of the building.
Brand new seats have also been installed after specialist consultants advised on ways to improve sight lines and comfort in the auditorium, whilst ensuring the world class acoustics are unaffected.
The rich and fascinating history of the venue has been captured in unique displays that weave along all four levels, showcasing key events from the official opening in 1853 to the big rock and roll band concerts of the 1970s and 1980s. There are now over 200 archive items, tickets and signed posters on display alongside fascinating objects found during the refurbishment including the front page of the Daily Express newspaper from 1928, sweet wrappers and an array of cigarette packets.
In addition to ticketed attendees, between October and December 2019 around 800 people engaged in a new Heritage Outreach Programme, which includes themed heritage tours, heritage open days and free family-activity sessions all supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Local nurseries, primary schools, brownie and guide groups, Bradford College students, and local community groups have all enjoyed tours of the venue.
There have been visits from reminiscence groups and those supporting people with additional needs such as the Creative Stroke Recovery Group as well as community groups such as the Sharakat Group, the Bhudday Buddies and the African Caribbean Elders from Mary Seacole Court. There have also been visits from refugee groups, local history groups, U3A as well as visits from the general public and tourists from out of town.
St George’s Hall now has a beautifully decorated and elegantly furnished café. The café is open from Monday to Saturday between 11am and 3.30pm and serves a delicious range of hot food, cakes and snacks, plus high quality teas, coffees and soft drinks.
An on-going schedule of activities for 2020 includes themed Heritage Tours planned for Mother’s Day, Pride and a Yorkshire Day event.
True to the founding spirit of St George’s Hall which is ‘to bring world class music to the people of Bradford’ an exciting project for Bradford schools will take place at the venue. On Wednesday 24 June the Hallé Orchestra will be performing with local children at a special event called ‘Come and Play with the Hallé’.
Hundreds of pupils from across the Bradford district, working with the council’s Bradford Music and Arts Service, will rehearse and then perform musical pieces along with the world famous Hallé Orchestra at St George’s Hall.
Coun Sarah Ferriby, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Healthy People and Places, said: “We can all agree that the restoration and refurbishment of our splendid St George’s Hall has been a great success.
“We have a packed programme of amazing shows, concerts and events for this year and the heritage activities are another great way for people to really connect with the building. It is no surprise that visitor numbers are up as it truly is the people’s palace.”