Colston Hall

Fast Forward Festival

Colston Hall's staff with their Outstanding Attitude Award

Colston Hall has committed to lead on the future of music development for Deaf and disabled people in the UK. The Fast Forward Festival was the major event to introduce this concept and is ongoing. The festival season pulled together some of the best talent on the scene at present from the classical world and gave a platform for new and emerging talent.

What was the inspiration for this improvement?

The festival was born from A New Ambition for Inclusive Excellence, a programme of work run by Bristol Plays Music, and funded by The National Foundation for Youth Music, to transform the future of music education.

A New Ambition is providing performance and development opportunities for children with disabilities and special educational needs (SEN), re-imagining the way instruments, repertoire and venues work so that everyone is able to access the highest quality music-making experiences.  With the help of assistive technologies tailored to their needs, the young people were able to perform pieces of music, to a substantial audience.

Each year, at Colston Hall, we put on an event which provides all those involved with A New Ambition to showcase their work: The Fast Forward Festival. This fully inclusive event also provides an opportunity for participants to see professional artists in a professional venue; an extremely important part of their musical development. These performances were billed as a key part of the overall Festival, demonstrating our commitment to offering high profile performance opportunities for artists of all ability.

Can you describe what you did?

Fast Forward Festival was a pioneering series of shows and a conference putting accessible music making centre stage.  Colston Hall’s programming team and Bristol Plays Music worked with the best and most forward thinking musicians and educational organisations to curate this festival.  This included:

Colston Hall’s 1951 auditorium had limited access for disabled patrons and no on-stage access for performers. We had to make significant changes to our building and working practices to accommodate this festival, these included:

  • Investing £10.5k in ramps to allow wheelchair access to all areas of our performance spaces and to allow disabled performers to access the stage
  • Installing a high dependency unit at the Hall for the duration of the Festival
  • Re-imagining the use of the Hall’s spaces and customer service practices to accommodate a larger number of performers and customers with access requirements.  We built a dressing room and catering facilities utilising the space on our terrace bar area.
  • Investing in disability equality training for more than 60 of our staff
  • We worked with local hotels and taxi companies in the city to accommodate performers and their personal assistants
  • Working with Attitude is Everything to carefully plan the logistics of the event

Thank you so much for providing a properly accessible venue. We came without our disabled son, but could see how easily the disabled performers and audience members were able to get about. – Customer

What has been the impact of the improvement?

The learning and feedback from the first Fast Forward Festival in 2015 were taken forward by Bristol Music Trust, and in 2016 we held another successful Festival, combining it with BBC Music Day.

The logistics learnt from the first festival are still being put into action, for example when we hosted a performance by Mbogwana Star, and took part in Disabled Access Day 2016. We were quickly and easily able to adapt our old building and create new dressing room and catering spaces for the artists and audience alike. 

Every time we do a big event like this we are constantly learning and looking at new and innovative ways to uses our spaces.  All feedback received from both the audience and participants will feed into our redevelopment plans for the new hall.

Christine Swain, Head of Customer Service said:

Bristol Music Trust and Colston Hall are thrilled to be recognised by Attitude is Everything for our Fast Forward Festival, in which we had to make huge organisational step-changes in order to put accessible music making centre stage. We are committed to improving access to all of our concerts and education events and this award shows that, with the help of organisations like Attitude is Everything, we are heading in the right direction to becoming a completely accessible building.