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For architects Seymour Harris Partnership, designing St David’s Hall was an unusual, if not unique, commission for several reasons. The primary challenge was how to provide a major 2,000-seat concert hall in the cramped space available and to complicate this issue, the building had to be fitted into an existing planned, and partly built, shopping centre. The result was that, in an incredible five years from conception to completion, an impressive 2,000-seat concert hall, with arguably the best acoustics in Europe was built directly over the St David’s Centre shopping mall.
Because the shopping centre below the hall was already under construction, a huge
rein-enforced concrete slab was positioned to transfer the weight of the concert hall
onto the centres main columns. The architects were assisted by a team of consultants on several areas, for example in the acoustic design they had the advantage of some pioneering work by Cambridge University where they created a fifty-to-one scale model of the hall. With this they simulated the different acoustics arising from a small-scale stage party to a filled auditorium by using absorbent materials to recreate an audience.
The autumn of 1982 saw exciting days at the new St David’s Hall. The special ‘open day’ on 30 August attracted 21,000 people; nine days later came the first public concert, a free open rehearsal by the Polyphonic Choir. By the time the Queen Mother performed the official opening in February 1983, St David’s Hall had already transformed the artistic life of the Capital city. As Her Majesty said, ‘This exciting development will add greatly to the quality of life for the city of Cardiff and the people of the Principality.’
Situated in the heart of Cardiff, St David’s Hall is the National Concert Hall and Conference Centre of Wales. Even with such a large national status they still believe that St David’s Hall is a building to be enjoyed by everyone day and evening throughout the year.
Although the hall is credited for its major concerts the hall itself puts on a range of small scale lunchtime recitals to promote young musicians and also give them a chance to gain vital performance experience. Even these smaller events are scheduled months ahead of the performance itself. The main stage however is organised years in advance with the schedule for the proms in 2006 already having been drawn up. For the smaller concerts on the day stage however the Hall turns to universities and colleges for example here rather than going to approach professionals because they can rely more on young musicians as they are a great deal more eager to perform!
As St David’s Hall is a council run amenity its staffing structure is the same as the staffing structure found in other entertainment venues such as the New Theatre. This comprises of a general management team who look over the general running of the Hall the tier below that in the staffing structure is section heads for finance, administration, marketing, development and education. The structure is so large that there is a separate one for the technical crew and the house management side of the operation. Because the Hall is council run it stands to reason that all the staff there are not employed by the Hall but Cardiff City council who have sixty people
working permanently within the venue and hire in casual staff for larger events such as the recent Music Theatre series.
Sponsorship and Marketing seem to run hand in hand in an establishment such as St David’s Hall and as it is a council run amenity the mission statement is written by the City Council however the management team play a huge role when it comes to writing it, here they considered the statement very important to the overall running of the building and stick to it rigorously. The hall also holds an Equal Opportunity Policy this to goes under annual inspection and the council require a report as to how they intend to expand it. Although it is a council amenity much of the funding is applied for and gained in much the same way as the local swimming pool would!
The hall is however, also able to apply for Arts Council Funding something that is applied for every three years and helps to keep the hall going. All these large amounts are vital but even the smallest amount of help financially is greatly received. Even if a patron becomes a friend of St David’s Hall they receive priority booking -ahead of the general public for most St David’s Hall events. A bimonthly brochure through the post ahead of the general public, and if a show has to go on sale at short notice, where possible they keep back an allocation of tickets for Friends.
They also give reductions on tickets on most of the concerts and events at St David’s Hall along with a monthly newsletter, regular competitions for tickets their own ‘friends co-ordinator’ at the hall and regular private social events. on a more commercial level and based at two of the top venues in Wales, the Development Team specialise in creating and maintaining successful business partnerships with the business community, providing a ‘first class service in the distinguished surroundings of St David’s Hall and New Theatre’.
They say that a partnership can help to promote your company and help you meet your aims and objectives. This Development team sole job is to find sponsorship for the venue itself rather than simply sponsoring a show or event although such sponsorship is vital to keep the hall alive when it comes to promoting an event however the venue seemed very proud of just how closely they work with the incoming company and it has every right to be it seems as if they advertise nearly every performance and that’s an incredible average of 300 per year. They then went on to explain that there are always things that may alter this number, for example September the 11th reduced the number slightly and things such as Foot and Mouth reduced the number to 270.
This Development team are also finding that corporate sponsorship for the arts has greatly decreased recently and so the Hall has hugely altered its strategies towards gaining sponsors and is turning its attention to what they can offer the sponsor as opposed to visa versa, so they created many different forms of sponsorship packages to suit a multitude of companies. The Development Team also advises businesses on the most appropriate type of sponsorship and thereby create benefit packages to suit company requirements.
Because St David’s Hall welcome some of the world’s finest productions and performers to Wales, and receive large audiences on a regular basis. The packages are designed with these elements in mind, allowing sponsors the opportunity to reach both the general public and other businesses.
Although there are standard packages, most sponsorship arrangements are based on an individual company’s aims and objectives, with benefits which reflect all requirements. we were told that with such a wide variety of performances and education and community projects, there are plenty of opportunities to suit your company needs.
Each Partnership package is tailor-made so that your company’s objectives are achieved. PREMIER SPONSOR is a company who has exclusive sponsorship of a performance this is one of the forms of sponsorship that the hall is trying to distance itself from. The benefits of each sponsor will be tailor-made according to company requirements and reflect the value of support given. Premier Sponsorship is available for one night or an entire visit. The cost of a Premier Sponsorship starts from ï¿½6,000 excluding VAT.
Partnerships are also available at St David’s Hall during the Welsh Proms and Orchestral Concert Series. The packages have been developed to allow companies the opportunity to entertain at these two major events. The benefits apparently concentrate on providing an evening of top quality hospitality and entertainment. As well as this acknowledgement of sponsorship will be given in venue publications during the year of support. Again all of this costs a mere ï¿½3,500 plus VAT.
We were also curious about what the future held for St David’s Hall we asked the general manager just how he believed the Hall would be affected by the building of the Millennium Centre. He believes that initially tickets sales will drop but that the decrease will be short lived. Personally I believe that the Millennium centre will affect the ticket sales a great deal more than ‘a slight slump’ as this will become the
new home of the Welsh National Opera. But he seemed very confident that although
the new centre will have newer audiences wanting to see West End musicals the hall
will able to stay afloat simply on its current database of names which boasts having 200,000 names, that the name and address of everyone who has ever bought a ticket for any performance! This seemed a very good way of targeting a specific audience but personally I believe that it is the people not currently on that list that the marketing should be reaching out to. However them saying that they will no be affected in the long term depends on just what shows the Millennium Centre put on and when. It isn’t just a matter of ticket sale losses that concern the management at the hall but also the possibility that it may lose some of their staff.
On the other hand however St David’s does play a major role in Cardiff’s bid for the Cultural Capital City 2008 something that they hope will bring a great deal of business there way in the not to distant future. They are already home for the cities philharmonic orchestra and they are hoping to make the venue bigger and better by inviting larger European orchestras over the next five years. This may well have a slight impact when it comes to reducing just how much ticket sales fall but with the Millennium Centre opening well in advance of the 2008 European cultural awards the hall will have its work cut out in order to play the role that it wishes to in the next decade when it comes to entertaining Cardiff and the rest of Wales.