An £80,000 grant for Richard Taunton Sixth Form College in Southampton will help transform its hall into a hi-tech professional performance venue for students and eventually the public.
The grant has come from the government’s Local skills Improvement Fund, which is aimed at helping education providers like Richard Taunton teach the skills identified as lacking in the area in the Local Skills Improvement plan drawn up by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership.
Curriculum Manager Rob Collier said some of the grant will fund a professional standard lighting rig, control desk and sound system for the college’s main hall as well as upgrading sound and lighting in its rehearsal spaces.
He said the primary reason for applying for the grant was to give performing arts and music technology students the opportunity to work on industry-standard equipment to prepare them for a professional career.
“We want them to get the opportunity to work with the best equipment when they are here so that when they go into the industry the kit they have been learning on will be at least as good as the technology they will be working with,” he said. “They will be training on the best quality equipment we can offer.”
He said the ethos is the same as with the state of the art ward built at the college for T-level health students in the autumn. “In all areas we need to be giving our students the best opportunities by investing in them and giving them these top quality facilities to work with,” he said.
The college plans to launch a new T-level media and broadcast production for the 2025/26 academic year. T-levels combine classroom teaching with industry placement. “The students will be developing those live event skills, which comes from running a variety of different events such as gigs, productions and conferences so this new equipment will provide the capability to all aspects of it.
“With the Mayflower and Mast Studios and other places like them, we’ve got top quality venues on our doorstep so it makes sense that our students are coming out of our college and able to step into them.”
The new equipment, due to be installed over the course of the next academic year, will eventually mean the college’s hall can be hired out as a public performance space for theatrical productions, gigs and lectures. The college plans to make further grant bids to fund retractable seating and dedicated changing facilities.
“It makes it the hall the heart of the college,” said Mr Collier. “It sits in the middle of the college so it needs to be the centerpiece of everything we do, which it absolutely will be now because it will have those facilities in place.
“We would like it to become the heart of the local community as well, a centre point that people can gravitate to.”
Richard Taunton Principal Angela Berry said: “I’m delighted for all of our students and the community in general that we will be getting this equipment and upgrading the hall, it will become a fantastic performance space.
“We have some incredibly talented students who are already flourishing here and these new facilities will help take them to a new level.”