By James Poole
The University’s Department of Music has called for the construction of a brand new purpose-built concert hall in Durham.
In a bold and unreserved statement entitled ‘Music Performance at Durham University’, the department said:
“Current students want the University to do more to provide music performance opportunities and facilities in the University.
“The University currently has no purpose-built or designated concert hall.
“Spaces commonly used are not built for purpose, and are frequently shared with other, non-commensurate activities.
“There is therefore urgent need for a dedicated, high-quality performance space in the University.”
The statement was authored by leading figures from the department, including Head of Department, Professor Julian Horton, and Jessica Lawrence, President of Durham University Music Society, and has been backed by the Music Department Board of Studies, Durham colleges and University music societies.
The statement continued:
“The development of music performance capability in Durham is important because our competitors either have excellent capability or are addressing the challenge.
“Cambridge has a purpose-built concert hall and Oxford has designated facilities in the city.
“Both Manchester and Birmingham have constructed new concert halls since 2000 (investing £6 million and £20 million respectively) which are integrated within their departments.”
The statement also called for the creation of a new central office and the employment of a coordinator responsible for marketing, organising performing groups and “developing the music strategy”.
The statement has been met with broad approval from students with the Vice President of Durham University Music Society, Ambrose Li, telling Palatinate:
“Durham University needs a purpose-built concert hall that caters for music theatre and opera.
“Durham is one of the only Russell Group universities not to have a purpose-built concert hall. Musicians throughout Durham would benefit a lot if we had one.”
Similarly, Laura Erel, a second year Music student said:
“It’s unbelievable that Durham does not have a purpose-built concert hall when its Music Department is ranked so highly in national league tables.
“A purpose-built concert hall would not only benefit music students but all musical students at Durham as well as the local community.”
Professor Julian Horton, Head of the Department of Music, told Palatinate:
“The Music Department is unusual within the University: for no other subject area is there such a large constituency of students outside of the department with whom its activities overlap.
“This means that we have a unique relationship with the student community, but it also generates external pressures on our facilities that few other departments experience.”
The Music Department’s appeal for new facilities comes at a time of growing student concern over current provision of resources and facilities for arts students at Durham.
In 2012 the University was forced to spend £240,492.89 on repairs to Elvet Riverside buildings after severe flooding caused the cancellation of teaching on Friday 29th November.
Meanwhile, in January 2014 the University unveiled plans for a £10 million makeover of the Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics after its construction only twelve years ago.
Peter Mathews, a first year Languages student said:
“The Elvet Riverside buildings are old and desperately need improvement – in recent weeks buckets have been placed in corridors to catch leaking water.
“Elvet Riverside 1 lacks sufficient IT facilities for Languages students and is an unpleasant place to learn and work.”
However, Professor Ray Hudson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, was able to inform Palatinate of new plans to refurbish the Elvet Riverside buildings:
“Following completion of a detailed feasibility study, the University’s Capital Planning Group is currently considering a range of options for the refurbishment of Elvet Riverside 1 and 2.
“Each option involves significant investment in the facility with the intention of enhancing the overall quality of the internal and external environment, improving access and circulation and raising the standard of teaching and learning resources throughout.
“Subject to approval, the nature of the work is such that a phased approach over two or three years will be necessary.
“We hope to commence the initial phase this summer.”
Building work on the Ogden Centre is due to finish in 2015, subject to planning.
Photograph: Durham University