A sustainable future for St David’s Hall has come a step closer with the publication of a report recommending that Cardiff Council protect the iconic venue by entering into a 45-year lease with Academy Music Group (AMG).
If the recommendation is accepted by Cardiff Council’s Cabinet, AMG would take on full responsibility for the building, operating it as an independent commercial enterprise and removing the need for any financial contribution from the council towards its maintenance, upkeep and operation.
The agreement would also commit AMG to providing a long-term future for the Hall, allocating a minimum of 60 days within the peak event calendar for key classical events and an additional 20 days outside peak dates, with a further commitment of an extra 10 days every other year for the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World event. Alongside this, AMG will also enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with key classical stakeholders to develop an optimum classical and community programme, as well as committing to maintain the venue's key musical instruments, including the Steinway pianos and the St David's Hall organ. Council employees currently working at St David's Hall will transfer to AMG on existing terms.
Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Events, Councillor Jennifer Burke, said:
“Entering into a lease agreement with AMG would secure a sustainable future for the National Concert Hall of Wales, protect its cherished classical music provision and ensure it continues to play a leading role in the cultural landscape of Wales.”
Established in 1982, the 2,000 capacity St David's Hall has hosted a diverse range of events and performances over the years, from symphonic orchestral performances to rock and pop concerts, comedy shows and dance performances, providing a platform for world-class artistic experiences. Moreover, its acoustic excellence, crafted in collaboration with renowned acousticians Sandy Brown, has earned it a well-deserved reputation as one of the world's top 10 concert halls and one of the UK's premier classical music venues.
However, St David's Hall has been facing significant challenges. A lack of national funding has left the council with the responsibility of maintaining the building and supporting the classical programme.
Cllr Burke said:
“It's no secret that following a decade of austerity, public sector budgets are under significant pressure and despite the council's sustained and significant financial contributions to St David's Hall over the past 40 years, the funding required to address both the short-term repairs, the longer-term maintenance backlog and fund the general modernisation required as the building ages, as well as provide the £1 million financial support the venue needs annually, simply isn't available within existing council resources.”
It was 2016 when, in light of these challenges, Cardiff Council first embarked on a process to identify ways to reduce the burden on the public purse. Although the process generated interest from the market, it was clear that the interest was contingent on the council retaining full responsibility for the maintenance of St David's Hall.
More recently, in May 2023, the council undertook a further market exercise facilitated by independent advisors which invited interested parties to submit offers for the opportunity to acquire St David's Hall. No formal offers were received.
The report will be discussed by cabinet. Papers related to the meeting on Thursday July 13th have been published here.