Excitement as the first images reveal inside Wolverhampton’s refurbished Civic and Wulfrun halls

Wolverhampton Civic Halls.  Construction work on the interior of the hall is now complete, although bars and all interior work are still missing
Wolverhampton Civic Halls. Construction work on the interior of the hall is now complete, although bars and all interior work are still missing

The head of promoter AEG Presents recalls telling the Slade frontman and all-round Black Country legend that his company had taken over the running of the 84-year-old venue.

The scene

“As soon as I mentioned the Civic Noddy’s eyes lit up,” said Mr. Homer. “He told me that some of the best moments he’d ever had were playing in that venue, which shows you how important it is, not only to fans, but to musicians as well.

“Elvis Costello loves it too. I don’t know what it is, but there is something about that room that creates a really good atmosphere.”

The 57-year-old chief executive from Stourbridge announced this week that live concerts will finally return to the Civic in June 2023, eight years after the start of a budget-busting revamp that has seen more plot twists than a Hollywood thriller.

The Wulfrun scene

Today, the Express & Star can reveal how the interior of the Civic and Wulfrun are now in the final stages of work ahead of completion.

To make a long story short, what was supposed to be £10m ended up being renovation, costing nearly five times as much, with the scheme hampered by a series of delays involving the discovery of asbestos, a contractor going bankrupt and the Covid-19 pandemic, among other issues. Now there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.

The main building work – including a larger stage area and a new balcony – has been completed and AEG is due to take over the site next month to complete internal renovations to the bars, kitchen, sound and lighting systems.

It will still incorporate the Civic, with an extended standing capacity of 3,404, and the Wulfrun, which will accommodate 1,289.

The Civic

The sense of frustration felt by the people of the town as a result of the delays is not lost on Mr. Homer, whose first gig was The Clash at the Civic aged 15.

But having been inside the venue to check on progress in recent weeks, he is confident the newly named The Halls Wolverhampton will be worth the wait.

“I absolutely understand the frustrations and we’ve been scrambling to get it open,” said Mr. Homer to Star in an interview. “I’m a very impatient person and I wanted to get on with it, but things happen and nothing is ever that straightforward.

“It is unfortunate that we have had so many delays, but it will be worth the wait. I toured the venue a few weeks ago and it was damn good.

Looking out from the stage
The view from the upper tier seating
Wolverhampton Civic Halls. Construction work on the interior of the hall is now complete, although bars and all interior work are still missing

“The extra balcony has made the room feel very different when you are up there.

“If you’re on the floor you know you’re in the Civic, but from the balcony it’s more like being in a theater – and I was blown away by how comfortable the seats were.

“The public will be presented with what I consider to be the next step. If you imagine what Civic 2.0 would be like, you have it in your head.

“It’s going to be an upgraded version of the good things that people remember about it. I can’t wait for it to open.”

Original building features

Sir. Homer says being a local boy makes his involvement with Civic even more special. He remembers that when he traveled to Wolverhampton to get his music fix from Sundown Records, the Civic always loomed large over the region’s music scene.

It was a place where he saw established bands like The Jam and OMD play groundbreaking shows, but also where up and coming artists would cut their teeth before hitting the big time.

His own journey has taken him from Crestwood School in Kingswinford to Dudley College.

He was an entertainment manager at both Keele and Sheffield universities – where he staged shows for artists including Blur and Nirvana – before a three-year stint at London’s Mean Fiddler saw him on Eminem’s debut UK tour.

He spent 15 years at Live Nation before joining AEG in 2016 – one of the largest entertainment promoters in the world.

“Having the opportunity to play a central role in the next chapter of Civic’s history is a real privilege,” he said. “We have to remember that there’s a whole generation of kids who have grown up not knowing the Civic. But I know if you’ve got the right actions, people will come.

“I think the facilities and the atmosphere on site will help to give people an experience they won’t forget.

The view from the stage
The Wulfrun Hall

“At all our venues we always seek to ensure the customer experience is the best possible and that is something we aim to continue with the Civic.

“The proof will be in the pudding. I think people who go and see their new favorite band at the Civic will be very impressed and want to come back.”

The reopening in June will see the Civic thrown into competition with other West Midlands venues such as the 02 Academy in Birmingham. But it’s a battle, Mr. Homer is confident that the Civic can win. “In Wolverhampton you can put on a bigger show,” he said.

“The acts will be coming over from the US and doing a limited UK tour. They will be doing London, the Midlands, Manchester and Glasgow.

“You play a venue like Hammersmith or Brixton in London, you play the Manchester Apollo, you play the Armadillo in Glasgow. They all have very large open spaces, high ceilings, so they can put on a big light show with a big stage set.

“I’m sorry, but you just can’t do that in Birmingham. The place where you can do that, with a bigger capacity, is the Wolverhampton Civic. It will have all the facilities that the artists need to do so.

“Availability may stop them all playing there, but I’m very confident that many of the big UK and international acts will be stopping in Wolverhampton for the first time in a long time.”

Julia Vasjutkina unveils the original stage floor
The big Civic doors

Since the reopening was announced, many people’s thoughts have turned to which artists will take the stage first.

Sir. Homer said he hopes to host a local gala as part of a series of opening shows headlined by Beverley Knight and Robert Plant. “I asked Noddy Holder if he wanted to play opening night,” he said. “He said ‘I’m too old’ but he’ll definitely go to the opening.”

When asked who he would like to see play in person, he said: “I’m very rooted in Wonder Stuff, Pop Will Eat Itself and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. If I could put a collection of those bands together for one event, I be a very happy man.

“These are people that I grew up with and used to hang out with. They left a mark on the West Midlands and they’ve all played the Civic before.”

Wood paneling in the auditorium
Original features in the Wulfrun hall

Sir. Homer also said the “one-off” returns of popular club nights Blast Off! and Cheeky Monkey could be on the way, while he would not rule out opening a third, smaller venue as part of the operation following the closure of Little Civic and the Slade Rooms.

“At the moment the focus is very much on restoring and bringing back the Civic and the Wulfrun, and regaining that market share in the touring circuit,” he said.

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