Wales’ national concert hall has potentially dangerous concrete in its ceiling, amid RAAC crisis

5 September 2023, 16:50

An orchestra performs at St David’s Hall, The National Concert Hall of Wales
An orchestra performs at St David’s Hall, The National Concert Hall of Wales. Picture: Alamy

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

One of Wales’ most popular concert halls could be in danger due to the presence of potentially dangerous concrete in its ceiling.

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The National Concert Hall of Wales, one of the country’s most popular music venues, has made headlines in the UK after a potentially dangerous type of concrete was confirmed to be in its ceiling.

Also known as St David’s Hall in Cardiff, the Grade II-listed venue hosts major events in the Welsh classical music calendar, including the Cardiff Singer of the World competition, and The Welsh Proms.

The potentially dangerous type of concrete found in St David’s ceiling, which a 2021 condition report confirmed the presence of, is known as RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete).

Over the last week, RAAC has forced over 100 schools to close or create temporary classrooms ahead of the start of the new school year. This is due to the health and safety concerns caused by the collapse of a British primary school roof, which fell without warning.

RAAC gained popularity across Europe during the 1950s as a cheaper and lighter-weight alternative to concrete. However, this decreased its longevity, and in August 2023, the UK Government agency, the Health and Safety Executive announced: “Raac is now life-expired. It is liable to collapse with little or no notice.”

Read more: Scientists created the quietest place on earth, a concrete chamber where you can hear your blood move


Construction for St David’s Hall began in 1977, and the 2,000-seater hall opened in 1982 – meaning the RAAC planks found in the ceiling of the concert venue have been there for over 40 years.

Concerns regarding the presence of RAAC, which has a reported life expectancy of 30 years, were brought up in a meeting by the Cardiff Council Economy & Culture Scrutiny Committee in December 2022. These findings were noted as escalating the need for remedial works in the venue.

A Cardiff Council spokesperson told Wales Online: “St David’s Hall has been subject to thorough and regular inspections by specialists for over 18 months, and during that time the local authority has received reports that there has been no deterioration in the condition of RAAC present at the venue, and it remains safe to operate as normal.

“Cardiff Council has implemented a building management and health and safety strategy, based on professional advice and government bulletins, to ensure the venue remains safe in the short term.”

The concert hall is due to be taken over by the nationwide music venue operator, Academy Music Group (AMG), and as part of this takeover, the group will be legally required to rectify ‘defects’ with the building, estimating a total of £38 million in costs.

The National Theatre in London has also found RAAC within its venue.
The National Theatre in London has also found RAAC within its venue. Picture: Getty

The National Theatre has also found RAAC in a number of its backstage areas.

A statement released from London’s theatre on the Southbank said: “The National Theatre is a grade II listed building made predominantly from traditional reinforced and post-tensioned concrete; there are a small number of select backstage areas where Raac is present.

“Our structural engineers are in the process of surveying these areas, initial indications are that they are safe and do not currently require remedial works.

“We have always and will continue to take the safety of our staff and audiences very seriously.”