August 28, 2015

St George's Hall - a sneek peak

As we hope you realise, we believe strongly that architecture is a social and civic discipline that should be used for the service of communities and society as a whole. We carry this through our work in a number of ways - in the kind of paid commissions we take on (and reject), through our support of a number of local groups in advisory roles, our sponsorship at the local homeless shelter, and through an annual pro-bono project in our locality that we design and build (or install) ourselves (here's last year's). We love putting our skills to good use and to spend a few days away from our computers and wielding hammers and saws!

This year we are working with local music festival Roman River Music to bring live performance back into an amazing venue that has not been used for many decades. Read on to see a picture of the hall and find out more...

St George's Hall is hidden away behind the Duchess pub on Colchester's High Street - so hidden, in fact, that few in the town know it exists. It was originally built in 1851 as a Public Hall and Mechanic's Institute, and used for political meetings, theatricals and music as well as displays of clairvoyance and spelling bees, changing hands several times after the end of the 19th century. It was used as a magistrates court and cells; a clothing factory; a club for the troops in WW1; and a workshop for the neighbouring theatre until 1967, from which time it was used as storage for the shop that then became the pub.

It is Grade 2 listed - rumour has it, by mistake, but the listing stands - and there is no doubt it is a handsome building with fantastic proportions and acoustics for live music. As a tester for possibly considering longer-term use of the space, we are opening it to the public for two concerts in this year's Festival, and our HAT team are doing the work necessary to make it safe and welcoming - lighting, handrails and balustrades, and safety measures. It's going to make an atmospheric and dramatic venue for two amazing concerts, and we hope it's the start of bringing this fantastic building back into use long-term


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