Huge support for training centre for SEND musicians

The first national Centre for Advanced Training for disabled musicians was launched this week at the House of Commons

MPs and a wide range of music and disability rights organisations have 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 attendees at the launch event 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 £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.”

Thangam Debbonaire MP and Louise Mitchell, CEO of Bristol Music Trust

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.”

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

Jesse Norman MP speaking at launch of Colston Hall’s SEND ambition

Louise Mitchell, Chief Executive of Bristol Music Trust, said: “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 future fully accessible education and concert hall facilities at Colston Hall 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.

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