Charity marks a steady year of community impact and investment

Social enterprise and registered charity BH Live continues to make a positive impact in the communities it serves – enabling more people to enjoy cultural events and participate in physical activity.

BH Live runs events, venues and leisure centres across Dorset, Hampshire and London in partnership with local authorities. As a social enterprise, its mission is to make a positive difference in the quality of people’s lives providing access to quality cultural events and the opportunity to participate in physical activity.

Like many organisations, the last few years have presented a wave of challenges for the charity to overcome. These include rebuilding after the pandemic, a rise in the cost of living and reducing energy consumption to tackle costs and improve sustainability. Despite this, as of December 2023, BH Live recorded a surplus of half a million pounds which will be invested back into the community. Furthermore, over the past 12 months it has generated a social value of over £24 million across Bournemouth and Portsmouth, demonstrating a continued positive impact on people’s lives.

This is thanks to several key areas of focus to inspire community engagement. These include attracting audiences back into cultural events, diversifying activities for young people, generating enough revenue to cover increased operating costs, and investing any surplus it generates into improving local facilities and services. This continues to enhance local communities that benefit people’s health and wellbeing.

Inspiring communities to get active

Any surplus revenue from commercial activity such as membership and pay-as-you-go sessions enables BH Live to provide leisure activities and opportunities for people on low income and underrepresented community groups. These include initiatives such as free swimming for children aged five and under in Dorset, and children aged 12 and under in Portsmouth.

Throughout 2023, BH Live hosted several free-to-attend activity taster sessions in leisure centres and delivered community events such as National Fitness Day and its Littledown Family Fun Day – initiatives which have made a positive impact on engagement with young people inspiring more participation in physical activity. With support from Portsmouth City Council, the charity obtained Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) funding to support children with sports holiday activity camps and a meal to promote physical activity and help working parents.

There was a focus on expanding and diversifying the organisation’s health and wellbeing programmes too, such as BH Live’s Exercise Referral Scheme, supporting people living with long term health conditions. During 2023, over £55,000 of funding was received to deliver new and engaging initiatives across Bournemouth and Portsmouth. These were developed closely with key partners such as Active Dorset, EnergiseMe, Sport England, Parkinson’s UK, and others. BH Live consequently provided more than 2,800 exercise referral appointments across Bournemouth and Portsmouth, and saw more than 9,900 Health & Wellbeing class attendances in Portsmouth.

Culture for all

Last year, one of BH Live’s priorities was relaunching Fairfield Halls in Croydon, a venue affected by multiple closures for refurbishment and pandemic restrictions. In 2023 a diverse programme delivered more than 200 events in the venue’s refurbished theatre and concert hall. This included symphonies, comedy, plays and a seasonal pantomime. Performances and events led by the venue’s resident companies, local groups and artists ensure Fairfield remains a cultural hub for Croydon’s community. Furthermore business events, conferences and exhibitions have brought people together to learn, network and have interactive experiences.

Supporting musical education, Fairfield Halls is also home to the only Yamaha Music School franchise in London which is operated and delivered by BH Live to over 250 students aged 3 years and upwards. In the last 12 months, courses have proven extremely popular with the local community. They are in great demand, with the addition of flute and drum classes to the school’s successful programme of keyboard and piano inspiring more children and adults than ever to engage with the arts.

Further south, Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) operated by BH Live in partnership with BCP Council, boasted over 30 sold-out arena performances during 2023. The venue welcomed artists such as Michael McIntyre, Dermot Kennedy, Russell Howard, Busted, Leona Lewis, and many more. Over 216,000 ticketholders enjoyed a live event in addition to more than 49,000 delegates attending business led events such as conferences and exhibitions.

Outside of the BIC’s regular performance programming, BH Live also ran its own events and attractions. These include Bournevaria, an annual beer festival, and the popular Cool Coast Ice Rink, one of the largest indoor seasonal ice-skating rinks on the South Coast. In 2022/3 more than 30,000 people enjoyed a skating session providing fun for visitors of all ages and abilities.

Bournemouth Pavilion, the town’s Art Deco-styled theatre which opened in 1929, experienced significant growth too, welcoming approximately 162,800 people to events over the course of the year. Coupled with community open days the Pavilion continues to celebrate its heritage and engage with new audiences.

Conferences and exhibitions

Conferences, exhibitions and hospitality services are operated by BH Live Enterprises Ltd – a commercial arm of BH Live. Surplus revenue is gift-aided back to BH Live on an annual basis to support its charitable work.

During 2023 BH Live Enterprises Ltd hosted over 32 events including conferences, exhibitions, graduations, awards and conventions at Bournemouth International Centre (BIC), the South Coast’s leading conferencing venue. Over 49,000 delegates were welcomed.

Elevate Brasserie & Bar opened at the BIC the summer of 2023 and has welcomed over 20,000 customers – providing a new coastal-themed dining experience for showgoers, visitors, and the public.

With BH Live continuing to support Business Events Bournemouth, the region’s business tourism bureau, venue, and hotel finder alongside additional support from the Coastal BID, the impact of Bournemouth International Centre’s (BIC) business continues to be felt beyond the venue and into the wider region, supporting wider tourism by bringing further custom to hotels, restaurants, and local businesses.

Investing in our future

As a registered charity, BH Live invests any surplus it makes to improve the centres, facilities, and services it provides.

Once fees, rentals, wages, and operational costs have been covered, any remaining surplus is used to make improvements to benefit the community.

Notable recent investments to provide more activities for younger visitors to enjoy include the installation of Air JumpX, an indoor inflatable at Sir David English Centre, as well as a giant pool attraction – AquaDash at Mountbatten and the Crusher at Littledown.

Changing rooms improvements at BH Live Active Corfe Mullen, Sir David English Sports Centre and Mountbatten Leisure Centre have completed, and Stokewood’s changing facilities are currently undergoing major renovations. Further investment in public leisure and sports facilities includes the reopening of BH Live Active, Queen’s Park (which was temporarily closed post pandemic), new group cycling studios at Littledown Centre and Mountbatten, plus a major transformation of the gym and fitness facilities at Pelhams.

BH Live has invested in excess of £600K in Bournemouth International Centre (BIC), improving the visitor experience of the venue’s facilities and services through refurbishment and renovation.  BCP Council also allocated £1.8 million to regenerate the venue’s meeting rooms, public spaces and install new digital signage.

New tech equipment, websites, support platforms and upgrades have improved efficiency and ensure the charity is operating to modern, fit-for-purpose, secure and sustainable standards so it can continue to provide excellent facilities and services.

Sustainable future

Environmental investments progress BH Live’s ambition to be more sustainable and help to reduce the impact of the increased utility costs

BH Live is considered an industry leader in sustainability and is actively participating in the Green Mark scheme with green champions at all of the venues and centres it operates. Monitored monthly energy reports are regularly reviewed as is the facilities’ technical and operational management. Pool hall lighting as well as floodlighting at Littledown have been replaced with LEDs. Furthermore  pool covers have been installed to minimise wasted energy output through heat loss. The charity is piloting electrical vehicles as part of its fleet, and several investments to save projects such as CHP and Solar PV have been pursued in conjunction with its local authority partners.

Looking back over 2023, Paul Collins, Chair of BH Live’s board of directors said;

“This year, thanks to customers supporting our services, we’ve been able to reinvest so much more back into our facilities and centres and continue our mission to make positive changes to the lives of many in our local communities.

“Despite the impact of increased costs across many areas, we are slowly rebuilding our financial reserves to focus more on future investments and how we can improve services and facilities for our visitors and create a more positive impact.

“There are still challenges ahead amidst the current cost of living crisis and continual high cost of energy bills, but we have been able to strategically prepare for this in the format of more sustainable practices such as installing LEDs, pool covers across our centres and regularly monitoring energy usage and spend. We recognise that this affects our customers too which is why we continue to offer them the best value we can, through competitive pricing, concessions, schemes for people on low income and more. We’ve also introduced more incentives for our active customers with Member Perks which helps to save money on shopping and cash back.

Whether it’s helping people get more active; providing a packed programme of diverse cultural events; or delivering economic benefit by hosting major conferences, exhibitions, and events, we are determined to continue delivering excellent social projects to communities.”

Read BH Live’s annual accounts on the Companies House website.


Notes to Editors:

For more information about BH Live please contact:

Daisy Saunders, PR & Communications Executive

About BH Live

BH Live is a leading operator of leisure and event venues; a registered charity and social enterprise that designs and builds engaging experiences to inspire people and enrich lives.

Our social objectives are to:

  • Encourage more people to take part in physical activity – by providing leisure facilities to encourage active communities and improve health and wellbeing.
  • Attract bigger entertainment audiences – with a diverse range of cultural and artistic events that appeal to a wide variety of tastes.
  • Deliver economic benefit – by hosting major conferences, exhibitions and events that benefit the local, regional and international economy.

With more than five million visits a year we are changing lives and are at the heart of the UK’s growing social economy.

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