Colston Hall becomes first concert hall in the UK to announce carbon neutral ambition

Colston Hall_Foyer Performance Space_003_Chris Cooper_Shotaway copyOn Thursday October 3rd, Bristol Music Trust, the charity that runs Colston Hall,  has announced its ambition for the transformed Hall to become carbon neutral by 2030.

The announcement makes the Hall the first in the UK to step forward in the face of the current climate emergency and declare this intention.

Bristol Music Trust recognises that the Transformation of the Hall puts them in a strong position to make this commitment now. Together with key delivery partners, the team will build on current sustainable practices, take immediate actions and work to finalise a detailed delivery plan by autumn 2020 to achieve this ambition.

Co-founder of Pukka Herbs, Tim Westwell has been appointed as a new Trustee of Bristol Music Trust. He brings his experience of conscious leadership in business to the Trust and to the sustainability agenda.  At Pukka Herbs, Tim developed a culture that ensured the business always reflected key values whilst delivering a successful business operation. He will offer motivation and leadership to BMT as they progress this exciting ambition for carbon neutrality, applying his vast experience and pioneering approach to the Trust’s developing sustainable business practices.

Tim said of his appointment: ‘I was attracted to the Bristol Music Trust because whilst it is building a wonderful physical space through the Transformation that will be sustainable and help to deliver carbon neutrality for the Trust,  it is also developing the most inspiring education programme that touches the lives of many thousands of people; growing children’s life opportunities through access to music.’

Key delivery collaborators also include transformation building contractors, Willmott Dixon, who have been carbon neutral since 2012 and were the first in the construction industry to do so, alongside international sustainability advisor Sydney Opera House, which achieved carbon neutral status five years ahead of its goal in 2018.

Louise Mitchell, chief executive, Bristol Music Trust, commented: “At this stage in our Transformation we are in a prime position to put environmental and sustainability targets centre stage. Our target is ambitious but absolutely realistic based on how we, as an organisation and our key partners, are embracing sustainability.

“We have been at the heart of Bristol’s arts and culture scene for over 150 years and we take our commitment to the Bristol community and our role in the city very seriously. This extends beyond the delivery of our performance and education programmes with our responsibility to make a difference and lead the way in how our sector can reduce our environmental impact.”

Colston Hall contractors Willmott Dixon have been a carbon neutral business since 2012 and earlier this year became one of only a few UK companies to be recognised by the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in the category of Sustainable Development. Julia Barrett, the company’s chief sustainability officer, says “This week’s UN Climate Action Summit was a timely reminder of the urgent action needed to tackle global warming. As well as action taken by nation states to reverse the rise in carbon emissions to safeguard our future generations, business too needs to play a part. That’s why it’s important to see the leadership shown by Bristol Music Trust in driving this agenda by aiming to be the first carbon neutral concert hall in the UK.  It mirrors our strategy to invest in new ways to become more sustainable and reducing our environmental footprint and seeking to go further and leave a positive impact.   I look forward to working with Colston Hall to help their sustainable journey and share ideas together that support Willmott Dixon’s own trajectory to be a net zero carbon – or even net positive – business well before 2050.”

Bristol Music Trust will use the best part of a year to finalise their carbon neutral plan, focussing on some of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a blueprint, particularly in relation to quality inclusive education (goal 4) , work on sustainable cities and communities (goal 11) and climate action (goal 13). In advance of the published plan, various sustainable features, practices and commitments to change are already being realised though the Transformation.


There is a focus on energy consumption to increase the use of renewables throughout the building and the Trust will build-in new sustainable features during the Transformation. Currently solar panels heat the majority of the Hall’s water augmented by our modern condensing gas boilers as necessary and additional photovoltaic panels will be added to the roof of the main Hall which will generate approximately 26,000kws of energy per year– making a saving of 11 tonnes of Co2 against current energy usage. The transformed hall will be updated with new control technology to plan energy use and prevent any waste, while energy saving LED lighting will be installed throughout the building.


An emphasis on waste management will further the Hall’s current work to recycle all bottles, PET plastic bottles, paper and cardboard and incinerate all non-recyclable waste to turn it into energy. Ambitions include removing all single use plastic and working with partners to turn food waste into energy.


The Hall’s biggest challenge will be affecting the supply chain and procurement processes, however the team also recognise this as an area in which they can make a significant difference by changing mindsets and reducing the environmental footprint of the arts and culture sector by implementing action packs and guidelines on our sustainable actions, using the hall as a vehicle of change.

The plan will also include a carbon-offsetting programme to realise Bristol Music Trust’s carbon neutral ambitions once emissions are reduced via the capital development and building management systems.

Bristol Music Trust’s ambitions to become a carbon neutral concert hall by 2030 form a core part of the Transformation project.

Arts Council England also adds their voice in support to the Trust’s announcement as Phil Gibby, area director, Arts Council England, South West, said: “We have committed over £10million of National Lottery money into the Transformation of Colston Hall, through our Capital funding programme. One of the key drivers of this fund is to improve the environmental sustainability of the arts and cultural sector.  A report we published last year showcases how the sector are emerging as leaders and key collaborators in this area – Colston Hall’s ambitious announcement to become carbon neutral by 2030 rings true to these findings and should be applauded.”


The education suites will include new classrooms and a technology lab, providing an inspiring base to educate thousands of children every year and increasing music making sessions at the venue by 75 per cent. It will also house the National Centre for Inclusive Excellence, providing music making opportunities for young people with Special Education Needs and Disabilities.

The Transformation of Colston Hall marks Bristol’s biggest-ever redevelopment programme in the arts sector. The first phase of the project involved the construction of the £20 million foyer space which opened in 2009. The rest of the building has not been refurbished for 60 years, making it the only major concert hall in the UK not to have been redeveloped in recent times.

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