Our headquarters and rehearsal venue, CBSO Centre, which also doubles up as a small scale performance venue and is also home for Ex Cathedra and BCMG, will soon be undergoing a transformation to ensure its facilities and infrastructure are equipped for the future. This is all thanks to the successful Stage 2 Capital Funding award from the Arts Council England and subsequent donations by the following: The Garfield Weston Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, the Limoges Charitable Trust, the Edward Cadbury Charitable Trust, the Rowlands Foundation, and the Oakley Charitable Trust.
Through the blog, you can follow our journey as we go through plans, introduce contractors and even give you a sneak peek behind the scenes as and when things happen.
In our first blog, Annmarie Wallis (Director of Finance) talks about the Centre works due to commence in May 2014 and run through to October 2014 and what it means to the CBSO, and the other resident arts organisations, to have an home that is fit for the future.
One of the greatest benefits of CBSO Centre has been that it was constructed to be low in maintenance with moderate energy bills, giving the CBSO and its other resident organisations an affordable base. However, 15 years on and with major advances in technology, the current infrastructure is somewhat outdated, inefficient and will become increasingly expensive to maintain, thus reducing the financial security that it was intended to provide; and at a time when the Orchestra is also under pressure from cuts in its public funding. So our c£2m ‘upgrade and refresh’ project includes work in five distinct areas:
- Internal works to the foyer, common room and kitchen
- Works within the main Hall (lighting & acoustic improvements, and new seating)
- External works to the building fabric including roof repairs and replacement of the unsightly window blinds on the Holliday Street elevation
- General energy/climate-related replacements (new office lighting and boilers)
- Other sundry works within the building (e.g. public meeting room upgrades)
We expect these improvements to deliver significant benefits going forward, including lower maintenance/energy costs and an improved visitor experience leading to increased visitor numbers. A further benefit will be the reduction in our carbon footprint.
How and when do we plan on completing the work?
Our plans are quite ambitious and we could not have hoped to achieve them without the help of others. In 2011 Arts Council England launched their large Capital programme to ‘support organisations to develop resilience by giving them the right buildings and equipment to deliver their work… investment will prioritise the consolidation and improvement of existing arts buildings’. A total fund of £219.6m was made available, with organisations invited to apply in one of three grant windows for awards from £0.5m upwards.
As an existing ‘arts’ building, CBSO Centre was a clear match with this programme, and after taking some time to consider the level of our application we opted for the second grant window, making our Stage 1 application in August 2012. In January 2013 we were delighted to hear that we had passed the first level assessment and were invited to make a Stage 2 application… and so the real hard work began.
The first thing we did was select a team of experts to help us with this more complex application process, knowing that whomever we appointed would be with us for the duration of the project. From a strong shortlist, Associated Architects, who were involved in the original construction and are based here in Birmingham, were appointed to work on the detailed project designs. They assembled a wider team of experts including structural and mechanical engineers and together we worked up our Stage 2 plans. We set ourselves a tight timeframe and despite a few challenges along the way were ready to submit as planned in July 2013.
While we waited for a final decision from Arts Council England we turned our attention to our own fundraising plans, it being a requirement of the Capital programme that the applicant raise one third of the funds themselves: £610k in our case. Working with our external fundraiser, James Eaves, we developed a detailed fundraising plan covering £1.17m of applications to four major and 26 smaller trusts.
In October 2013 we were successful on two fronts:
- Arts Council England accepted our Stage 2 application, awarding us the requested £1.223m
- The Garfield Weston Foundation, one of our four major trust supporters, approved in full our £250k request for funds…and so we realised that after all the hard work and planning, it was really going to happen!
The appointment of a contractor to do the physical on-site work is the key task for the first quarter of 2014, and the actual works are planned to be completed during May-September 2014.
We do expect there to be some disruption for the Orchestra, staff and other users of the building, but in our detailed planning of the separate work strands we are working hard to keep this to a minimum. July and August in particular are quiet/holiday times for the Orchestra and with the schools on a break too, there will be fewer demands on the centre as a whole. Two short orchestra tours in late August/early September 2014 will also help to minimise the disruption. At the same time we are already looking at alternative venues for chorus and orchestra rehearsals and will be restricting any external bookings.
We expect to be fully open for business at the beginning of October 2014 and whilst we haven’t planned anything yet, there are sure to be some celebrations so that we can show off our improvements.
If you would like to know more about our plans or see the designs for the foyer/reception area, then please come along to our ‘stakeholder session’. Once we have finalised the date the details will be available on our website, cbso.co.uk, and around the building. You are also welcome to get in touch about this project at any time – contact Niki Longhurst, CBSO Centre Manager, on 0121 616 6532 or firstname.lastname@example.org.