The Anvil, Basingstoke
The Anvil concert hall has firmly established itself as one of the South’s leading venues with acoustics which are among the finest in the country. It has excellent lighting and outside broadcast provision in the technical gallery sited below the roof void. A comprehensive programme is provided with high quality live music specialising in big name soloists, conductors and composers – the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and London Mozart Players are regulars - as well as opera, ballet, jazz, country, folk, popular music and comedy acts. Local organisations are not excluded; choral concerts, dance competitions, school performances and community events all take place at the venue.
The idea of a civic centre in Basingstoke was first raised in 1966, but it took 25 years of campaigning, debate and rejected schemes before a feasibility study was carried out by architects Renton Howard Wood Levin in 1991. The site between Alençon Link and Churchill Way was selected as the best location. £6.5M was raised towards the total cost of £12.4M for the build when the Council prematurely paid back debts to the Public Works Loans Board, thus qualifying for complex interest rate discounts – a loophole quickly closed by the government.
Work started on site in July 1991. However, not everyone approved of the design and an appeal was sent to Prince Charles to intervene against the ‘gunboat’ shape but with no success. The complex went on to win a commendation in the Civic Trust Awards in 1995.
The building is made up of eight separate elements. The 1400-seat auditorium has flexible seating and staging formats which create a multi-purpose space while fixed circle seats wrap around on three sides; a simple proscenium arch can be introduced for theatrical performances. The stall seats are fully retractable to give a completely flat floor suitable for sporting events, banquets, exhibitions and trade launches. An area in front of the stage can be lowered to give an orchestra pit. The Forge offers a small, flexible studio space for 80-150 suitable for film screenings or business presentations; the circular Linden room is ideal for small receptions and meetings whilst there are bars on two floors and a café bistro with outdoor terrace seating and a booking office.
The name of The Anvil was chosen to represent the town’s industrial heritage and to reflect the fire and energy that would be forged inside. Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber is its patron and a Gala Concert was held on 3rd May 1994 to celebrate the opening with performances by Julian Lloyd Webber and a world première of Taverner’s Theophany. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra with Basingstoke Choral Society appropriately performed The Anvil Chorus and the event was broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
Content derived during research for the new VCH Hampshire volume, Basingstoke and its surroundings.