Brighton Dome reopens after £22m restoration

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The Independent Online

The Brighton Dome, the historic building in the Royal Pavilion Estate that has been used as a concert hall since the 1860s, is to reopen today after a £22m refurbishment.

The Grade I listed building, which was originally a stable block, has been restored for the first time since 1935. In its 135-year history as a music venue, the Dome has presented artists as diverse as Paul Robeson, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Wilhelm Furtwängler, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones.

When the Dome hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, Abba became overnight stars with their winning number, "Waterloo".

But the venue suffered decades of neglect and was eventually closed for the overhaul three years ago.

Nick Dodds, the chief executive of the Dome, hopes new seating, improved views and an acoustic system hidden in the domed ceiling will make it the leading concert hall in the South-east.

"We're very excited. The Dome had a sad reputation as not being a good acoustic hall for music, but that's been transformed by the refurbishment," Mr Dodds said.

"We've also made all the usual improvements in facilities that the modern concert goer wants," he said.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra heads the list of performers at a Storming the Dome reopening concert tonight in which hundreds of Sussex residents will take part in a new musical drama called Brighton Muses. In coming weeks, the jazz musician Courtney Pine, the violinist Nigel Kennedy and the dance DJ Fatboy Slim, who lives in the city, are due to perform there.

The Dome was originally built in 1805 for the Prince Regent, who became King George IV, and forms part of the Royal Pavilion Estate. It was converted into a concert hall about 60 years later and became one of the most fashionable venues in the South.

The building was modernised in 1935 when an Art Deco interior was introduced, but both the Grade I listed Regency exterior and the art deco interior, now also Grade I listed, had suffered serious decay since then.

The latest restoration, funded by the Arts Council, Brighton and Hove council, regeneration grants and private sponsorship, will create a capacity of 1,800 people. The Dome will also be rented out as a conference facility.

The reopening completes a revamp of the three venues that together operate as the city's art centre. The Pavilion Theatre and Corn Exchange were refurbished in earlier schemes and reopened a year ago. The Dome used to be owned by Brighton and Hove council, but was placed in the hands of a separate trust about four years ago. It serves as the principal home of the annual Brighton Festival, which has been running for 36 years.

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