Students’ Union gets Hollywood seal of approval

After conquering zombies, aliens and Hollywood, Simon Pegg returns to Bristol Students’ Union for grand opening

The actor, comedian and writer studied Theatre, Film and Television at the University of Bristol, graduating in 1991 before becoming a household name through comedy series Spaced and blockbusters including Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End.

He opened a brand new theatre named in his honour in the Richmond Building, home to the University of Bristol’s Students’ Union, which has undergone a £30 million transformation over the last five years.

The refurbished building, on Queen’s Road, boasts 200 new study spaces, with spectacular views across the city, two state-of-the-art theatres, two café bars with a full programme of events, several activity rooms, a digital media suite, dance studios, music studios and refurbished gig venue The Anson Rooms with a capacity for over 1,000 people.

Students voted to name the new theatre ‘The Pegg Studio Theatre’ in honour of the famous alumnus, whose dissertation looked at how Marxist modes of critical theory could be applied to Star Wars.

Later in the day, the Right Honourable the Baroness Hale of Richmond, Chancellor of the University, officially reopened the whole building.

Sam Budd, Chief Executive of the University of Bristol’s Students’ Union, said: “We’re so pleased to be able to open this space to our 22,000 students. Our 250 sports clubs and societies can only benefit from the world-class facilities we have and this will place the Students’ Union at the heart of university life for students while they are in Bristol.”

The Richmond Building was built in 1965 and remains one of the largest purpose-built students’ union buildings in the UK, with a floor area equivalent to nearly four full-size football pitches.

The original building was designed to meet the pastoral, recreational and social needs of an expanding student population living away from home. Hence the original design included large meeting rooms, television and games rooms, a barber, a bakery, dining rooms and bars, a proscenium theatre and a swimming pool.

Now, exactly 50 years later, the building has undergone a complete overhaul to meet the needs of modern-day students and be more energy efficient thanks to the work of architects Feilden Clegg Bradley, who are pioneers of sustainable architecture.

For example, by replacing the old swimming pool air handling plant with a new heat recovery system, it’s estimated that 116 tons of carbon emissions are being saved per year, reducing pool running costs by more than £14,000 in that period. 

Not only has the concrete exterior been enhanced, the interior has been completely remodelled and it’s now a sustainable building fit for the future, with improved natural lighting, ventilation, sound insulation and better disabled access.

It’s a very rare example of a 1960s building being renovated to a BREEAM Excellent environmental standard.

Moss is even growing in the interior walls of The Balloon café bar and a ‘brown roof’ has been created on the new extension roof from local flora, recycled aggregate and felled timber.

Professor Sir Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol, said: “We have always been very lucky to have such a large Students’ Union building, with so many facilities under one roof, but it was looking tired and we were keen to bring it into the 21st Century.

“Staff and students have been very patient during the transformation but everyone agrees that it has been well worth the effort and upheaval. It is now an exciting hub of activity and a place which our students can be proud of for years to come.”

Follow the opening on social media using the #lovebristolsu hashtag.


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