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Plans to bring buzz and bands back to Guildhall now submitted

Plymouth’s Guildhall could be going back to the future with plans that will help to bring back gigs and more events now submitted to planners.

The Council has this week submitted an application for planning and listed building consent, with changes they hope will bring back the buzz and the bands to the building that has seen Bowie, Queen and the Who perform.

The design has been carefully put together to make sure any upgrades minimise impact on the Grade II listed building where possible. It is also designed to create space for a variety of other uses, such as other entertainment events, conferences, training, weddings and hot-desking.

Changes proposed:

  • For the Great Hall – measures to improve lighting, audio visuals and sound. Trusses to be installed allowing AV, light and sound equipment to hang from the ceiling. Acoustic panels and curtains will be installed to improve the sound quality and will be coordinated with existing ventilation grilles, chandelier lighting. A new modular stage to offer more options – catwalk, smaller stage or theatre in the round to attract a wider variety of users and events
  • Entrance – a disabled access ramp installed at the front, the main doors refurbished and security gates removed
  • Lifts – the existing lifts refurbished. Accessible platform lifts installed to the lobby stairs and 1st floor tea bar area improving accessibility for all users
  • Toilets – refurbished and remodelled and an increase in number 
  • Lounge Bar and Drake Room Bars – the existing bars replaced with a longer versions and more space for serving, including lower counter areas to support people with disabilities 
  • Drake Room – a free standing lighting truss and acoustic panels to be hung from the ceiling improving the acoustics and AV flexibility for events
  • Kitchen area in the main hall to be equipped to enable more flexible catering for events. The kitchenettes and tea bars will also be upgraded and refreshed
  • Astor, Charter and North Rooms – upgrades to lighting, glazing and furniture. A moveable acoustic wall will be provided between the Charter and the Astor room to enable events to run at the same time
  • Mechanical and electrical – a heating and ventilation strategy is being designed to improve the customers’ experience of the building. A separate programme will see the installation of a new air source heat pump.

Cabinet Member for Finance, Councillor Mark Shayer said: “We have this amazing building, but we need to make more of it. There has been lots of discussions with event organisers and promoters so that the improvements work for them as well as ensuring the building’s amazing interior is not compromised.

“We see this an investment – not just in the city, but the city centre, a feel good factor for residents of all ages who can enjoy a wider variety of events – and it will bring in an income for the council.”

The Guildhall, was originally built in the 1870s but reduced to a shell during the Blitz.

It was one of the few damaged buildings to be restored rather than rebuilt, with the restoration continuing through most of the 1950s.

Historic England describe it as a ‘rare and unusually rich example’ of an unaltered `Festival of Britain’ interior and there are some glorious touches including an impressive black and white marble staircase in the centre. There’s a mural depicting famous sons of Plymouth and the city’s maritime history and three stunning 1950s chandeliers.

The project is expected to cost £3.9m comprising £2.45m which was allocated in the Council’s capital budget in March 2021 and £1.5m from the Future High Streets fund.

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