Former chairman of electronics to media conglomerate Sony, Sir Howard Stringer, has gifted £2m to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) to restore and transform the Old Library building in the centre of Cardiff.
The RWCMD is looking to raise £12m to turn the listed building, which it recently took over on a 99-year lease from Cardiff Council, back into original purpose as a public space for arts and education. With the donation from Sir Howard and his wife it has now raised £3m following a previous gift from the Mosawi Foundation.
The college is now setting out on a period of consultation and public engagement activity to co-create a plan for the community use of the building, developing long-term opportunities to work in partnership with RWCMD students and staff.
This will include working with other city centre businesses, diverse communities, venues, arts organisations and the public and current tenants, including the Museum of Cardiff and Menter Caerdydd.
Cardiff-born Sir Howard is also former president of US broadcaster CBS and chairman of the board of trustees of the American Film Institute.
He said: “The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama has long been a cornerstone of Welsh culture. The conversion of the beautiful, historic library into brilliant rehearsal studios and classrooms extends the presence of the college into a wider community, through performance and public engagement while further securing its current and future role as a leader in the development of the arts and the creative industries in Wales.
“There’s a reason ‘we’ll keep a welcome in the hillside’ resonates globally. It is also the reason I have always come back to Wales, because my birthplace is where my love of music and drama began, and thus, stimulates my support.”
As a mark of gratitude, the main first floor studio has been named the Sir Howard Stringer Studio for the remainder of the lease term.
RWCMD principal Helena Gaunt said: “We owe huge thanks to Sir Howard and Lady Stringer for this heartfelt and generous gift. As we approach our 75th birthday we have a clear vision for the direction of the College and the Old Library is at the heart of it, offering new opportunities for students to curate and co-create inspiring performance and activities with diverse groups of participants and audiences.
“Extending the college out into this city centre building – directly opposite St David’s Hall – will provide an important extension of our teaching capacity and talent programmes. Equally important, it also offers us a rare opportunity to offer flexible performance and workshop spaces and create a widely accessible cultural, artistic and educational hub for the public.”
Leader of Cardiff Council, Huw Thomas, said: “Cardiff is a creative and cultural capital and this incredibly generous donation takes us a step closer to bringing one of its most significant cultural institutions right into the heart of the city. It’s a huge boost for music education and the performing arts and for our music strategy work to protect, enhance and develop the city’s music offer.
“The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama conservatoire provides a constant flow of top-level talent and many students go on to enjoy international success. Their exciting plans will build on what they can offer their students, but also open up their work to the wider public, making the building more accessible and the music and performances that emanate from it an integral part of the city centre.
“They will also breathe new life into one of Cardiff’s most historic buildings, protecting and preserving it for years to come, and I’m pleased that, for the time being, the Museum of Cardiff, will also remain inside the building, until our positive partnership work with the museum trustees to find it a more suitable sustainable long-term home is concluded.
“These ambitious plans will help ensure music and culture in Cardiff remains, quite literally, in the heart of the city.”
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