Preston City Council’s leader has hailed the sale of the Guild Hall to local businessman Simon Rigby as a “fantastic deal for Preston”.Advertisement
The venue, built in 1973, is due to be transferred to the Rigby group’s ownership on Monday after months of negotiations.
Alongside a £1 million immediate cash injection in repairs and improvements to the building the local multi-millionaire has set aside £250,000 to be an arts and culture trust fund.
Leader of the city council, Peter Rankin, said: “This is a fantastic deal for Preston and a fantastic deal for taxpayers. Thanks to Simon, over one million pounds is being invested in the Guild Hall. This will breathe new life into the venue with a beautiful new restaurant, a striking and welcoming front entrance and upgraded facilities for audiences and performers.
“Under Simon’s ownership, Preston Guild Hall will become Lancashire’s premier entertainment venue. People of all ages will be able to enjoy a great night out with fantastic food and entertainment, right in the heart of Preston City Centre.
“The sale of the Guild Hall also frees up to one million pounds of taxpayers money that, in these times of austerity, will be used to help off-set cuts to vital public services such as street cleaning, Preston’s Parks and Leisure Centres. Believe me, the scale of such cuts is unprecedented, so the deal to save the Guild Hall cannot be under estimated and is of immense importance to Preston.
“Simon is totally and utterly committed to future use of the Guild Hall by local community groups, amateur dramatics, college and school productions and the like. In fact Simon is ‘putting his money where his mouth is’ by creating a £250,000 trust fund to invest in arts and culture in Preston. We are grateful to Simon for his vision and philanthropy in supporting his home City.
“For over forty years, Preston Guild Hall has wowed audiences and hosted great performances. Well, thanks to this deal with Simon, the show will go on and we wish him all the very best for the future.”
The Rigby group has already secured planning permission for an overhaul of the entrance of the building.
It will have covered escalators running up from street level to the first floor and an Italian restaurant is to replace the tourist information office.
Mr Rigby is to be handed the keys to the venue in a ceremony at the Guild Hall on Monday.
He said: “My heart’s in Preston. I’m keen for the city to do well and that’s why I’m investing in Preston Guild Hall. There is a tremendous opportunity here. The city is on the up and the Guild Hall is very much part of that.
“Our offer will be second to none. First class food and first class entertainment, all at a price people can afford. We aim to be Lancashire’s premier entertainment venue and the whole team here is focused on that. Giving customers what they want, treating them well and above all making sure they have a great time when they are here.
“To me, the Guild Hall is much more than a business or an entertainment complex. It’s a hub for community, creativity, spirit and enterprise. I want to grow and nurture this. To see the arts and culture flourish in Preston. The trust fund I’m establishing will tap into Preston’s diverse and exciting cultural mix and take it to the next level.
“Preston has so much potential in so many ways. I’m delighted to be part of it and to play my part in helping Preston to thrive economically, culturally and socially.”
The venue was saved by Mr Rigby when he stepped in to buy it following the city council’s appeal to say it could no longer keep subsidising the venue.
Preston City Council has to save over £3.6 million a year and was propping up the venue with around £1 million in subsidies. Reports indicated the venue would have shut in late March 2015 if no new owner had been found.
A report showed how demolition of the building was on the table if the deal with Mr Rigby – for an undisclosed sum – was not struck.
Confidence in Preston’s arts and events scene is already building, with the Guild Hall booking shows like Avenue Q for late 2015.
What do you think of the deal? And the general sale of the Guild Hall? Let us know in the comments below