New plans revealed to secure the future of the Old Library


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An update onCardiff Council's progress in securing the future of the Old Libraryhas been revealed.

Areport, which will be presented to the local authority's Cabinet on Thursday 18 November, seeks authority to transferuse of the building via long lease - that will also cover the full running and maintenance costs -to theRoyal Welsh College of Music & Drama.

Cabinet is asked to consider the College's plans which include introducing a series of music and performance spaces in the existing rooms and furtherdeveloping existing work at the Old Library in respect of the Welsh language, to promote and protect the language.

The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama full plans include:

  • sustain and deepen existing aims in the Old Library to promote and protect the Welsh language.
  • return the Old Library to its original educational function for the College's students and participants.
  • restore the listed building to showcase its original features, retaining the original building layout.
  • introduce a series of performance, exhibition and rehearsal spaces into the existing rooms.
  • provide public access to a "city living room" on the ground floor, with café/creative workspace.

Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, Cllr Peter Bradbury, said:"These are really exciting new plans for the future of the Old Library, whilst still remaining sympathetic to the history and tradition of the building.

"This will be a huge boost for performing arts and perfectly complements the existing Museum of Cardiff - which is such an integral part of the building, bringing together thehistory of the city- and the neighbouring St David's Hall, which will create a hub for creativity and culture right in the city centre.

"There is a lot of work being done to develop Cardiff's Music Strategy which includes protecting the city's music scene.These new proposals will help create a key cultural quarter with the Castle, the college campus at Bute Park and the museum,withtheir unique position within Cardiff's music scene".

Principal of the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Professor Helena Gaunt, said, "This architectural gem has education and community built into its foundations. Taking that history into the future, we aim to bring the space to life with music, drama and a range of live performance as a magnet for local people. It feels like a perfect fit for Cardiff as a ‘City of Music'.

"Anyone who passes our current campus in Bute Park will appreciate the magic of hearing inspiring music spilling out through open windows - that magic will now become a feature of the city centre."

"We want to draw people in, as a space for everyone to enjoy. We will throw open our doors to offer immersive experiences, inviting people to explore and create with us. We want to spark curiosity and nurture the most diverse range of talents, combining innovation with Wales' cultural heritage.

"This collaboration with Cardiff Council is an exciting promise to the city's people, and we are looking forward to transforming it to reality."

The main areas of the building are occupied by the Council funded Museum of Cardiff and a commercial lease to Virgin Money. The upper floors are partially occupied by Menter Caerdydd.

Chief Executive Menter Caerdydd and Menter Bro Morgannwg, Heulyn Rees, said, "We are looking forward to working with Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in the future.

"Welsh language provision in the arts is very important to Menter Caerdydd and Menter Bro Morgannwg and we look forward to developing opportunities in the city centre."

The building has benefitted from a comprehensive up-grade in recent years through grants from various sources including the Heritage Lottery Fund for the Museum of Cardiff and Welsh Government in support of the Welsh Language Centre. However, the age of the building means on-going maintenance is required and the cost of addressing the maintenance backlog is difficult to predict and manage.

Cabinet Member for Investment and Development, Cllr Russell Goodway, said:"As one of Cardiff's treasured heritage buildings, we have a responsibility to fully reflect the Old Library's value and potential.

"Beyond the Old Library, we are fully committed to protecting the city's past for future generations, and by looking at innovative solutions and building on partnerships with the private sector and academia, we can ensure some of Cardiff's most iconic buildings are properly maintained and preserved."

Image- the indoor performance space proposed for the Old Library (Credit:Flanagan Lawrence)