Frustration as Preston Guild Hall legal wrangles continue

Posted on - 15th May, 2022 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Business, Preston City Centre, Preston Council, Preston Guild Hall, Preston News
Preston Guild Hall Grand Hall The Grand Hall Pic: Michael Porter Photography
The Grand Hall Pic: Michael Porter Photography

Preston Guild Hall has played an important role in the city by providing a home for the arts and culture sector for nearly five decades.

However, in recent years the venue has been subject to downfall. Preston City Council sold it to Simon Rigby for £1 in 2014 before it went into administration and was closed down in May 2019.

At this point the Guild Hall went back into Preston City Council ownership, which cited breaches of the lease, but Mr Rigby and 13 other entities claimed the seizure was illegal. Before his death in 2020, Mr Rigby revealed that he had lost £6 million on the Guild Hall project.

Since then, delays due to Covid-19 and continued legal wrangling have meant an uncertain future for the Guild Hall. This has caused increasing frustration amongst local residents who have not had a response to questions about when it will be open again.

Read more: The sad demise of Preston Guild Hall and the origins of the Guild

One such local, Mark Holt, got in touch with Blog Preston to complain about the situation.

Mark said: “I and many more find it incredible that nobody in the private sector never mind the public can make the Guild Hall viable.

“Blackburn is a small mill town and Lytham is practically village, and they can put on shows and make it work financially, not to mention Liverpool and Manchester.

“We want to be a viable go-to city, attracting visitors, and we cannot get our biggest showpiece open? Frankly it is embarrassing, particularly as our council are quick to tell everyone about the success of The Preston Model.

“I have tried to get an answer from the council. Typically they are not forthcoming due to legalities, but when will these legalities take place and what of contingency plans? Just two of the many, many questions that need addressing and answering.

“I cannot stress enough this is a massive issue to many who are sick of defending what as a city we are perceived as living in a cultural vacuum.”

When Blog Preston put these comments to Preston City Council, a spokesperson reiterated their inability to respond. They said: “Our legal team continue to deal with ongoing matters relating to the Guild Hall and therefore at this time we are unable to comment.”

Preston Guild Hall in Lancaster Road Pic: Tony Worrall
Preston Guild Hall in Lancaster Road Pic: Tony Worrall

As well as local residents, artists have expressed their concerns about the Guild Hall.

Garry Cook, who is the creator of the Lancashire Fringe Festival currently running at small venues across the city, has been vocal about Preston arts needing more support from the people in power.

Read more: Opinion: Lack of arts venues is leaving the people of Preston without cultural engagement

Garry said: “There have been a number of failed attempts to rejuvenate arts and culture in the Preston and the lack of any proper theatre spaces has hugely affected what local people are able to experience in areas of theatre, comedy and performance.

“From a personal point of view putting on shows in the city, I’ve been forced to turn down so many shows because they are too big for the venues I have access to.

“It’s then massively frustrating when I see these shows come to Chorley, Darwen, Wigan, Blackburn, Burnley, Lancaster and Blackpool. It really hurts to say: if you want to see the best shows, go to Chorley.

“Preston is in danger of a whole generation missing out on live music, theatre and performance simply because shows can’t come to the city.

“The Guild Hall’s closure has been a huge loss to the city, particularly for those who love music and theatre.”

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What are your thoughts on the future of Preston Guild Hall? Let us know in the comments below.

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