Neil Hopkins, South Swindon Parish Council Chair, gave us a great talk on Wednesday. He shared with us the plans for the repair and improvement of Town Gardens iconic Bowl. Neil explained that the Bowl is an iconic Art Deco concert bowl. It is probably the only one of its kind remaining in the UK. Around 30 similar structures exist around the world, mainly in North America. The design is similar to the Hollywood Bowl but knocked down and rebuilt in the 1990s; Swindon’s bowl is an original built in 1936.
The Bowl had not been repaired by Swindon Borough Council since the 1990s and and is in need of repair. There is a need for improvement including access. Right now disabled performers cannot access the stage; and the back stage areas are certainly not fit for purpose. Furthermore the old concrete garages alongside are damp and are not suitable for providing modern dressing room facilities.
First to the drawing board
Neil produced a commercial plan for the Swindon bowl before starting on developing a case for repair and improvement of the Bowl. They identified ways raising revenues that could be generated by hosting events across the three heritage parks, including the Bowl. These ways included concerts, theatre, weddings and various events. Neil presented the commercial plan to the events working party and the Leisure and Amenities Committee. The aim was that the revenues would provide the facility to pay for the repair and refurbishment of the Bowl. Swindon has a poor record of protecting it’s heritage buildings. The Bowl needs to be regularly used for events or it will be come simply a folly.
The vision for the iconic Swindon Bowl
Neil then showed us the feasibility study see below prepared by Calvin Weaver of Weaver Khan Architects on behalf of the parish and Beards Construction. and developed in discussions held with Calvin Weaver. The study proposed uses for the Bowl and highlighted the issues that needed resolution. Calvin Weaver developed a concept to include fungi that existed on some tree trunks. They also demonstrated the use of sails to provide some weather protection. And finally ways to light up the trees in what is essentially an arboretum.
Neil then talked us through the drawings, highlighting the proposed improvements to the backstage areas. These include toilets, a shower changing areas and a waiting area for performers attached to the side of the rear part of the Nissan hut style bowl. Other improvements needed to the actual bowl building itself relate to drainage and improvements to the stage area.
When will the vision for the iconic Swindon Bowl improvements start?
The current plans are to carry out the repairs to the Bowl building during the winter of 2021/22. Further phases of will incorporate three pods that will house toilets for people using the bowl. There will also be a food preparation area and a bar. There are options as to which side of the area the pods will be situated. The likelihood is that they will be on the Quarry Road side to access drainage into Quarry Road. The design incorporates sedum roofs and materials that reflect the natural environment. Sails installed to provide some protection from the weather can also be capable of reflecting noise back into the Bowl.
Feasibility Study PDF contains all the illustrations of each concept together with the layouts.