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Huge support for first national Centre for Advanced Training for disabled musicians

On 8 March, MPs and a wide range of music and disability rights organisations backed exciting plans for the first ever national Centre for Advanced Training for young musicians with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

A musical performance from 12-year-old Ashleigh Turley wowed crowds of over 100 in the House of Commons. Ashleigh, who is blind, is an example of a young gifted musician who would benefit from the Centre for Advanced Training.

The proposed Centre is part of Bristol Music Trust’s ambitious £45 million transformation of Colston Hall. If realised, the Centre would become the thirteenth Centre in the UK that provides specialist training for ambitious young musicians. None currently exist which are designed to accommodate people with SEND.

Thangam Debbonaire MP, Labour Shadow Culture Spokesperson, former professional musician and MP for Bristol West, opened the event on behalf of the four Bristol MPs.

She said,

“Bristol is a wonderfully diverse and cultural city. It would be the perfect place in the country for a Centre for Advanced Training for SEND. The nation should benefit from the expertise in SEND music education based at the Hall. In turn, this would create more opportunities for young disabled people to achieve qualifications and pursue a career in music or simply begin a lifetime of enjoying music.”

Jesse Norman, Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee also welcomed Colston Hall’s plans. He said,

“There is something incredibly important about the ambitions of the new Centre for Advanced Training that’s being contemplated at Colston Hall, which is that link where you take a skill, you develop it, you broaden it and then you tie it directly to qualifications. It’s not just about living your dreams; it’s about developing a skill that can be taken to an employer or into the rest of your life. And that’s why I think this is such a fantastic idea and I absolutely celebrate Colston Hall.”

Mayor George Ferguson thanked Ashleigh on behalf of MPs, Trustees and Cllrs for a wonderful performance and added,

“I am proud that last year the first disabled musical festival was held in Bristol at Colston Hall. It showcased the excellent work of the British Paraorchestra and the important role that Bristol Music Trust plays in our city. We have committed £10m towards the £45m redevelopment and I am 100% behind transforming this important venue, that provides music education and much more. I look forward to opening a renovated Colston Hall well before 2020.”

Louise Mitchell, Chief Executive of Bristol Music Trust, said,

“I’d like to thank everyone for coming along to the launch, especially Ashleigh for her breath-taking performance. Bristol continues to build a national reputation as a city where disabled people can achieve their music potential and where we confront perceptions about disability.

“Our multi-million pound Hall transformation offers the opportunity for the South West to take the next step. We can shape the future about how young musicians with SEND are trained to play and perform. One of our aims is to challenge the national perception of SEND music and create a national profile like that achieved in Paralympic sport.”

The current facilities at Bristol’s Colston Hall are out of date and not accessible to disabled people. The future fully accessible education and concert hall facilities will exceed anything previously built -in the UK. Three cutting edge performance areas and learning spaces will be adaptable to the widest range of needs and a state of the arts technology lab will raise the bar for national standards in accessibility.

Bristol Music Trust must first finish raising the investment for the transformation. Bristol City Council, the Government and Arts Council England have allocated £25 million between them. The Trust is now seeking more sources of funding, including trusts and foundations, companies and private donors, to reach the £45 million target.

The Hall is set to close in the summer 2017 for the redevelopment works to commence and reopen fully transformed in 2019 to deliver new national standards of education and performance in the heart of the West of England.