Preston City Council have begun a campaign to find a buyer or supporter for Preston’s Guild Hall which costs the taxpayer more than £1million a year to subsidise.Advertisement
A ‘soft market test’ has been released by the city council to see whether any businesses or individuals come forward.
It follows a draft plan released by the council last week on how it plans to support the arts in the city – of which the Guild Hall building is a major contributor.
The Guild Hall was built in 1972 and plays host to a conferences, graduations and concerts – among many other events – each year.
Over 300,000 people visit each year and the council says it must be kept going to ensure it remains as one of Preston’s cultural hubs.
A statement on the council’s website states: “We are carrying out a soft market test to seek feedback from experienced organisations, on our aspiration for an innovative and economically viable ‘Entertainment and Leisure Hub’ at the Guild Hall complex.”
They are hosting an open day for interested parties to discuss ideas.
Councillor Tom Burns, cabinet member for culture and leisure, said: “As a council we want to achieve the best offer of commercial, retail, leisure, entertainment and culture for the city centre.
“We need to get the views of experienced organisations on whether this approach is attractive to the market and can offer greater economies of scale and whether we can achieve efficiency savings.
“We know that culture and entertainment are a big draw for people into the city centre and the development of our cultural framework is central to achieving this.
“However, we are under severe pressures as our budget continues to reduce and we need to be having these conversations with experienced organisations in the private and public sector about how we can ensure an improved entertainment offer in Preston.”
The council says the key outcomes of any idea for the Guild Hall must:
– the existing leisure, entertainment and cultural offer within Preston is enhanced significantly
– the local economy is directly supported through increased visitor numbers, student retention and improved job/training opportunities within the leisure, entertainment and cultural sector
– commercial viability and value for money is improved
Lorraine Norris, the city council’s chief executive, told the Lancashire Evening Post they are focused on finding experts to take up the running of the building.
Over on BBC Lancashire their political reporter Chris Rider says a “future without a Guild Hall would be a bitter blow for the city.”
To get involved in the Guild Hall consultation you can visit the city council website or email [email protected]
Written responses are invited up until early September and anyone wishing to attend the open day should email by August 28.
What do you think should be done with the Guild Hall? What events should it put on? Let us know in the comments below