Posted On: 8 Jan 2018

Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of The Piece Hall Trust


We thought that if 10,000 people walked through the gates on 1st August when we reopened, it would be a good result. I don’t think anyone imagined that more than 22,000 people would visit The Piece Hall on that incredible day and we were amazed by the passion, support and ownership that local people felt for this wonderful building. 

It was a reminder – not that we needed it – that the Trustees are custodians of something very special and that the really hard work, to make this a sustainable destination for the 22nd century, begins now.

We’ve got off to a flying start. Within four months, more than one million people have visited The Piece Hall which means we’re well on our way to exceed our target of 1.6million for the first year. When you consider that the Tower of London attracts 2.7million visitors a year, Sagrada Familia in Barcelona 3million and the Eiffel Tower 7million, we start to get really excited about the potential for The Piece Hall: our ambition is to reach that level of international standing.

There has been a terrific show of confidence in the work of everyone involved in the transformation of The Piece Hall. Since reopening it has been recognised by the British Guild of Travel Writers, with ‘highly commended’ in the Best UK Tourism Project category and announced overall UK winner at the Historic England Angel Awards, recognising the achievements of Claire Slattery, Calderdale Council’s Arts and Heritage Manager, who was also awarded Best Rescue of a Historic Building. The Department of Digital, Culture Media & Sport has included a case study on The Piece Hall in its 2017 Heritage Statement. This kind of recognition and profile are important markers for us to build on, as The Piece Hall is a key economic driver for growth, not only for Halifax and Calderdale but for the whole of the Northern Powerhouse region.

The Piece Hall was created at a time of great innovation when Halifax was one of the most important textile towns in the world. Once again, our towns and districts are re-emerging as creative and significant places to live and work, with The Piece Hall at the heart of them acting as a catalyst for growth.

Economic transformation is only part of what we’re trying to achieve. Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber said of his visit to The Piece Hall that this sort of modern transformation of our heritage buildings is what other towns should be doing.  Through the spectacular contemporary events programme that around 100,000 people have enjoyed in the courtyard – regardless of the Yorkshire weather – we’ve begun to see how to make The Piece Hall relevant for today.

The place is a multi-faceted magnetic opportunity like no other. We’re already attracting significant events and conversations with major national and international producers and prospective partners. When the Tour de Yorkshire sets off from The Piece Hall on 6 May 2018, millions of people across the world will be able to see the building and its close proximity to beautiful surroundings.

It’s been a privilege to help set off on this journey. We’ve taken some difficult decisions, but they’ve been the right decisions for the long-term success of The Piece Hall. Many lessons have been learnt in 2017 and whilst we haven’t got everything just so, we have got most things right.  We’ve been pleased at the success we’ve had with letting the commercial space and I’m confident that by the end of 2018 we will be 100% let. A key piece of the jigsaw is to get the restaurant offering right and we’ve been taking our time to make sure that we do just that.  That will be an exciting announcement in 2018.

Scores of local people have told us that they feel a real sense of pride in the transformation of The Piece Hall and it makes them optimistic and hopeful for their home town’s future prospects.  It’s given Halifax a greater sense of purpose. With the momentum building, the challenge now is to bring the whole of Halifax with us in a shared endeavour.

In its Georgian heyday The Piece Hall opened for just 2 hours a week. In the way that Gaudi’s visionary legacy to Barcelona continues to be delivered today, we have an opportunity to create our own Renaissance for the whole of the North of England here in Halifax.

Supported by
The Piece Hall heritage regeneration project is also supported by Garfield Weston Foundation and The Wolfson Foundation.
The Piece Hall is independently managed by The Piece Hall Trust, a registered charity, number 1156948. Registered in England and Wales, number 08906735.
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