News | 13 August 2018
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Town Hall closer to becoming a cultural and musical centre

Wellington’s Town Hall is a step closer to being a centre for civic and cultural events in the city – after the signing of a binding agreement with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) and Victoria University’s New Zealand School of Music Te Kōkῑ.

Screaming fans held back by policemen at a Beatles concert at Wellington Town Hall in June, 1964.
Fans at a Beatles concert in 1964

The two organisations and Wellington City Council have formally agreed to redevelop the Town Hall as a centre for civic events and as the heart of a unique centre of musical and creative excellence, education, cultural connections and community engagement.

The Town Hall has been closed since 2013 because it was earthquake-prone. Work started in May to reinforce the exterior brickwork and a major strengthening and upgrade project is due to start later this year. Its completion is scheduled for 2021.

Mayor Justin Lester says: “We want to cement Wellington’s position as New Zealand’s capital of culture and as a globally competitive cultural destination. The Town Hall is an iconic Wellington heritage building with world-renowned acoustics. The signing of this agreement, and the start of construction work on the Town Hall, are exciting steps towards achieving that vision.”

Victoria University of Wellington’s Vice-Chancellor Grant Guilford says: “This joint agreement to redevelop the Town Hall is another crucial moment in the journey towards establishing a national music centre in central Wellington. With Wellington Town Hall at its heart and with our New Zealand School of Music and the NZSO in situ, the centre is intended to be a vibrant hub for artistic collaboration, talent development, interaction with the creative industries and public engagement.

“Our fundraising campaign continues to progress positively and we are grateful for a number of significant leadership gifts, including the recent $4 million grant from the Lottery Grants Board.”

NZSO’s Chief Executive Christopher Blake says: “All New Zealanders will benefit from their national orchestra being part of this world-class centre of musical and creative excellence in Wellington.

“As the NZSO’s home, the refurbished Town Hall will provide a myriad of new opportunities for rehearsal and performance, recording, film scoring, broadcast, streaming and the development of creative projects and concert formats for touring.  The Orchestra will be able to take full advantage of its fine acoustics and the modern technologies that will be part of the redevelopment.

“For the NZSO the sky’s the limit.  This is one of the most significant and exciting milestones in the history of the Orchestra since it played its first ever concert in the Wellington Town Hall 71 years ago.”