Local businessman and honorary Prestonian Simon Rigby is looking to put more than £1 million into a city centre venue.Advertisement
Blog Preston spoke to Simon on Wednesday on the steps of the Guild Hall to find out what it was all about.
Simon said he was really happy that Preston Council accepted his offer to take over the venue. He clearly sees great potential in it. He looks at the Guild Hall as the beating heart of the city and didn’t want to see it closed down by the council. He wants to get the heart beat stronger than ever and return the venue back to the success it once was.
One of the more exciting proposals is to include extensive community use of the building. Simon is very enthusiastic about inviting people with passion and ideas to put on events.
The trust fund that Simon is looking at setting up will go far in supporting the local arts scene and culture in general in Preston using the Guild Hall as the central hub.
The whole complex will receive a much needed face lift from the front to the back. The underpass and bridge to the Bus Station will be improved together with new signs inviting travelers into the Guild Hall.
The closure of the university music venue 53 Degrees is seen as an unfortunate but lucky break for Simon. Many of the bands who wanted to play there can now look towards the Guild Hall as an alternative venue. Simon’s team are looking for the most popular acts that sold out there to return to his new venue.
He is keen on continuing to attract top class comedians to the city. Simon is also drawing up plans to invite big name artists that he considers suitable for the niche market of the existing venue. He has hundreds of ideas that he and his management team will pursue in the coming years.
The complex contains retail units on the ground floor and Simon has plans for those as well. At least six units will be offered out free for 12 months to new businesses with full support from the Rigby Group. Simon said the units have people waiting to move in as soon as the deal is a certainty. Simon would like to see the Guild Hall as an ‘incubator’ for new businesses. The incubator idea will also work for the Guild Hall arena and Theatre.
Making the venue the place to go to eat and relax there are also big plans from Simon. A new buffet style restaurant is planned as well as smart new coffee bars. Simon runs the Villa Group which includes the luxury Villa Hotel at Wrea Green, the Villa Express at Kirkham, catering arm The Villa Outside and branded food under the Villa Finest range. He is also the caterer for Preston North End Football Club. So he knows what he is talking about.
Simon was clearly excited about the project and told us he can’t wait to get it started.
Richard Simkin takes operational control of running the Guild Hall and theatre complex. Simon joked that he gave the £1 million to him and told him to get on with it!
The proposal for the Guild Hall has been recommended for approval by Preston Council and the cabinet will meet on Friday to rubber stamp the deal. Hopefully, on 1st October the ownership transfers to Simon Rigby.
We will be bringing you more news about the Guild Hall development as and when we get it.
What do you think of Rigby’s ideas for the Guild Hall? What events would you like to see? Let us know in the comments below