IN MAY this year, Basingstoke’s own international concert hall the Anvil will mark a quarter of a century since its doors opened.

In those 25 years, the venue has seen acclaimed orchestras, comedians, musicians and, of course, stars of the annual pantomime tread its boards.

In the weeks leading up to a celebratory birthday concert on May 3, the Gazette will be publishing a series of articles about the venue’s history, the famous faces which have graced its stage and your memories of attending shows at the venue.

This week, we will be looking at how The Anvil came to be and how the ambitious plans were put forward approved by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.

Having previously been a town with a reputation for being just full of roundabouts, the administration at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council had set about looking at ways to put the town on the cultural map.

“The idea was to do something that would bring people to the town as an audience and in the long-term bring acts from around the world to Basingstoke,” said current deputy chief executive at Anvil Arts Matthew Cleaver.

When ideas were being thrown about, the idea of had been put forward to produce somewhere that was larger than the current Haymarket and that could provide top-class facilities for the arts.

In 1991, discussions began on coming up with a conceptual design for a civic hall with tiered seating and an orchestra pit.

This then turned into the idea of a concert hall.

Leader of the borough council at the time, and Hampshire county councillor now, Stephen Reid, said it was an idea he was enamoured with from the very start.

Mr Reid said: “I thought for once Basingstoke could have a facility that wasn’t a compromise but was actually up there with the very best. That’s what I wanted for the borough.”

The land is owned by the borough council and it was from that point on the venue’s future became a matter of getting the rest of the town to see the vision for the concert hall.

The initial idea was seen as a risk for Cllr Reid, with early plans for the building receiving mixed opinions.

Cllr Reid added: “The design of the hall was controversial. We wanted a building that was self-advertising. The pointed prow and angular design were not an immediate hit.

“But today they are a part of the Basingstoke landscape. A stranger coming to Basingstoke looking for the Anvil will certainly know that they have found it.”

As part of the building’s design, it was integral to include world class acoustics which would benefit any performer that comes on to the stage.

Mr Cleaver said that this factor is still one of the building’s main selling points to this day.

He added: “It was quite a statement to make at the time, and still to this day we are recognised among one of the best concert halls internationally for our acoustics.

“This is why we keep having international calibre artists wanting to perform here.”

After the plans were approved, and a financial windfall for the £12.4 million building was secured, it took two years and 10 months for the build to be completed and the doors to be opened.

Mr Cleaver added: “There are people that we know who came to that first concert who are still coming to the Anvil and enjoying shows to this day.”

To celebrate 25 years, the Anvil will be welcoming the Philharmonia Orchestra on May 3. Go to for more information.