In the spotlight

After seven years of planning and preparation, it was only fitting that the opening of the University’s spectacular Performance Hub would be an occasion to remember.

Students, staff and visitors have been overawed by the new building and the facilities on offer, and more than 150 people gathered to celebrate its completion. One very special guest was particularly impressed.

Gareth Malone, TV choirmaster and all-round inspirer, unveiled the plaque and led the University Chamber Choir in an outstanding performance in the black box theatre.

He said it was a great honour to open the ‘fabulous’ building, which he believes will give students the best opportunity to develop their future careers.

“The University has remarkable students and this is an absolutely outstanding facility. It will set the students up for a life of musicianship and song, enhancing their lives and the society in which they live. I wish the students and all at the University the best of luck for the future,” he said.

Gareth found fame in the 2006 documentary series The Choir, which saw him bring music into the lives of students who had never sung before, ultimately taking them to compete in the World Choir Games in China.

To date, this successful series has won two BAFTA awards and an RTS award. Gareth was also on screen last year with BBC’s The Choir – Military Wives, bringing together women whose husbands are serving in Afghanistan. A single, Wherever You Are, was released as a result of the hit show and clinched the Christmas number one slot in 2011.

The students were very excited to perform under Gareth’s direction and were still buzzing from the event days later. Music student Laura Wright, who is in a number of choirs and plays the piano, was thrilled to be a part of such a memorable occasion.

She said: “I found that it was a really great experience, and found Gareth very inspirational. I have always watched him on TV and loved the way he worked.

“I was so excited to meet him but I was slightly worried that he may not be the person he seemed on telly. I wasn’t disappointed though; he really was a lovely man, very kind and caring. He really made the ceremony, and it was a special moment to watch him unveil the opening of the Hub plaque.

“We all enjoyed the experience with Gareth and the ceremony, and it gave us all a buzz. It was truly marvellous to have taken part in it, and for the choir to be able to represent the University. I had a great day and really wish I could do it all again.”

Dean of the University’s School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure (SSPAL), John Pymm, was delighted with the success of the event and said: “The Performance Hub is one of the most impressive performing arts buildings in the country. It shows how we’re investing in our students, our communities, our region and in the fast-growing creative industries sector of the British economy.

“We were delighted that Gareth Malone was able to make time in his very busy schedule to officiate at the opening ceremony. He is a musician of exceptional talent who has won the hearts of the nation through his choir work on television and we were thrilled to welcome him to open our outstanding performing arts facilities.”

There were also addresses by Chair of the Board of Governors, Michael Elliott and Professor Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor, as well as tours of the facilities. The event was also an opportunity to showcase the School’s prestigious Steinway pianos. Wolverhampton became only the third university in the UK to receive All-Steinway School status from the world-renowned piano manufacturers. A plaque was formally presented by Managing Director of Steinway and Sons UK, Craig Terry, at the launch to mark this status.

Mr Terry said: “I have been with Steinway for 26 years and I have never seen anything as fine as this. We are so proud to have our pianos in the practice rooms here. It is a perfect marriage between Steinway and the University of Wolverhampton.”

The Performance Hub is the latest development at the University’s Walsall Campus, and has been built on the site of a former teaching tower and Halls of Residence, which were demolished in 2007.

The east wing features a new Learning Centre on the ground and first floors, dance and drama rehearsal spaces on the second floor, with the third floor providing music practice rooms, recording studios and music technology suites. The west wing comprises a ‘black box’ theatre space with associated dressing and changing rooms, a green room and additional performance spaces.

The four-storey building houses teaching and rehearsal spaces for SSPAL, which offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, including dance, drama, music, sport and physical activity, leisure and tourism. It includes performance areas, music rooms, a Virtual Technology facility and staff offices.

Students can be sure that they are given the best possible launchpad for their future careers – and a really enjoyable experience while they study.