Cardiff Council assurances after St David’s Hall petition

November 21, 2022 by

Cardiff Council has stressed the need to safeguard both the status of the National Concert Hall of Wales and safeguarding jobs ahead of a crunch meeting to decide the future of the venue.

The assurances were given after an online petiiton was launched, rapidly attracting more than 8,000 signatures, calling on the Council to consider any plans to hand over St David’s Hall to private sector organisation Academy Music Group / Live Nation, as revealed by Arts Scene Wales.

The petition has rung alarm bells with the perceived threat not only to the hosting of key events in the city such as the Welsh Proms, classical concert series and BBC Cardiff Singer of the World but the terms and conditions of employment for its staff including agency staff who have raised fears they are not covered by TUPE staff transfer protection.

More than 8,000 people had signed the petition by Monday evening. It was launched by an agency employee at the Hall.

In response to Arts Scene Wales, a spokesperson said: “Cardiff Council can confirm it has received a proposal from Academy Music Group (AMG), regarding St David’s Hall.

“The council is currently considering this proposal and a report is scheduled to be brought to Cabinet in December. No decision has yet been taken.

“There is undeniably a need to secure investment into St David’s Hall, but safeguarding jobs at the venue and retaining its status as the National Concert Hall of Wales, with access to the Classical symphonic repertoire, would be an absolute imperative for the administration, under any proposal.

“The council knows the importance of St David’s Hall to classical music lovers and the proposal does protect the main classical programme, community events, and includes opportunities for these to be extended.

“The proposal also commits to a substantial investment to upgrade the building, ensure the hall’s reputation for world-class acoustics would remain and to protect all existing employees on their current terms and conditions through a TUPE agreement.

“Cardiff Council’s Cabinet will consider a report on the AMG proposals in December.”

The petition reads:

St David’s Hall currently is the home of the BBC National orchestra of Wales, and Arts educational training and access for disabled patrons and young people via Arts Active.

The hall operates at a significantly reduced subsidy (circa £700,000 p/a). The reason stated by Cardiff Council for investigating privatisation is the maintenance backlog, a figure quoted by them as £55 million but in actuality more like £9 million (as quoted directly to St Davids Hall staff).

They are publicly saying that they are only “investigating options”, with a decision due to go to council cabinet on the 15th December. However, at a meeting with HR in St David’s Hall earlier this week, it was made clear that the council’s preferred option is that the long term lease of the building to AMG/livenation is seen as the only way forward. The alternative option stated at the meeting is to close the Hall. No investigation has been made regarding alternative funding streams to raise the money (I.e. arts council) or private fundraising for the building to clear the maintenance backlog, and they said at the meeting that they will not be doing so either- despite a letter being sent to the council leader in January 2021 signed by some members of the management team wishing to investigate external funding opportunities after the offer of corporate sponsorship by SSE to revitalise the building.

AMG/ Live Nation have made it clear that they will reduce the cultural and classical output of St David’s Hall – as their “bread and butter” is large scale pop events currently akin to the International arena. They intend to undertake large scale structural alterations to a building that is in the process of becoming a listed building, including but not limited to extensive retrofitting to enable a large standing audience to increase the capacity of the venue and increase their profit streams. This would invoke the removal of the stalls seating, and structural alterations to the auditorium which have the potential to negatively effect the acoustics of one of the top 10 concert halls in the world – a jewel in the crown of this capital city.

Losing cultural output could negatively effect the balance of programming, directly impact Arts Active and their programme of arts education for young people, with potential implications for the festival of remembrance, Cardiff singer of the world, the international concert series, the Welsh Proms, the annual Cardiff university graduations and so much more – and would in all reality be a travesty, all happening at a rushed pace without clear information being given to the general public.

Many long-standing members of agency staff, myself included, who are in line with council policy entitled to a permanent council contract due to our length of service stand to have no protections through TUPE if the building is transferred and potentially stand to lose our continued employment. We were recognised as council staff through the pandemic, many of us redeployed by the council, and to now have a situation where they have announced to the public “no jobs would be lost” is outright lying and is to be blunt shafting many members of long standing loyal staff members. The only reason we are agency staff is due to change in council policy several years ago, whereas they wanted to have no 0 hours contracted staff on their books.

I hope the lessons have been learnt regarding acting too late for cultural assets in the city – the loss of the Zaha Hadid designed opera house for Cardiff Bay in the early 2000’s providing a stark warning as to what can be lost given acting too late and no intervention.

St Davids Hall, the National Concert hall of Wales, is a cultural asset and deserves to be saved before a mistake privatising (at a time that privatisation by consecutive conservative governments is being proved to generally be a failure) and potentially permanently losing something so important to both the capital city and the nation can be allowed to be rushed through by the council before all options have been investigated.

We call on Cardiff Council to reassess this decision before a mistake is made.”


The petition:

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