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BLOG: NICKY CHANCE-THOMPSON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE PIECE HALL TRUST

Posted On: 2 May 2018

FROM MY PERSPECTIVE

As the CEO of The Piece Hall Trust, I’m immensely proud of what our team has achieved since re-opening the huge gates of this amazing building, aptly on Yorkshire Day, back in August last year. It’s been an incredible journey, one of immense challenges but also with some great highlights. To restore a historic building of this scale and importance was a huge achievement for all involved. I am also continually grateful to my Board and Chair Roger Marsh OBE and Vice Chair Roger Harvey OBE for all their support, advice and guidance through some choppy times. 

And with The Piece Hall now well and truly established, it seemed an apt time to share some of my personal highlights and thoughts with you.

VISITORS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

In just over eight months we have welcomed over 1.9million people through our gates. 

To give you an idea of how remarkable this is, our target for the entire first year of opening was 1.6m. 

So we’re well on our way to competing with other national landmarks and heritage sites, with our footfall being on a par with the annual figures for Stonehenge. 

During this time we’ve welcomed visitors from all over the world, from Australia, America, China, Thailand, Iceland, Canada and many more countries, all making a special trip just to visit Halifax and The Piece Hall. And many local people have come to view The Piece Hall as their favourite place to meet, eat, shop or just even sit and enjoy the beautiful courtyard. We have created Halifax’s very own town square.

SHOPS AND RETAIL

One of the main questions we are asked by visitors is “Why aren’t all the units full?”.

From the outset we decided to stagger the amount of businesses coming in over the course of two years, so that the Trust and existing businesses could ‘bed in’ a newly transformed building after opening. The Council have undertaken a lot of work to repurpose the building for the 21st Century and it takes time for a building of this size and importance to find its feet. We also wanted to make sure we had the right mix of quality, independent shops that enhanced people’s experience when they came to visit. We could have easily filled all the units by now, but we realise we need to create a sustainable community that really thrives.

Since our opening day, when we had 17 shops, we have welcomed The Yorkshire Soap Company, The Book Corner & Bookworms, Mystical & Magical, the Gin Lane Shop, Joseph Chance, Christian Scott Hairdressing, Onlineauthentic, the Escaporium and Gingerbread Interiors into The Piece Hall family. 

We’re now thrilled to announce the next wave of businesses including Bottomley’s Eyewear Boutique, a restaurant, a stationers, a champagne and wine bar and a vintage furniture emporium. Alongside this we will be opening our very own Piece Hall run restaurant, conference space and events room. Exciting times!

EVENTS

When we opened, we were determined that The Piece Hall would be world class in everything it does. And this includes events. We opened with a bang with Enchanted Chandelier, The Welcome Festival of street artists, Architects of Air and Saxophone Massive. And people loved it! We took a short breather and launched into Christmas with an events-packed Spiegeltent (featuring 23 different acts) and Christmas Fair. The Piece Hall came alive and was once again magical.  

But we’re not resting on our laurels - 

This May bank holiday weekend we have the first of our Live at The Piece Hall events, featuring Grammy Award-winning artist Father John Misty in his only UK headline date outside of London. There are other events to be announced around the day too. 

We will be welcoming iconic TV show Antiques Roadshow here in July, so get up into the attic and try to find that painting your grandma left you - you never know...

There will be more event announcements soon, to make sure our cultural heart keeps beating strongly throughout 2018. So keep your ears and eyes peeled.

HALIFAX

The thing I’m most proud of, though, is the fact that there seems to be a bubble of excitement around Halifax, and I feel the town is in the throes of a major cultural shift.  And this isn’t just down to The Piece Hall. Our neighbours at Square Chapel have undergone their own stunning transformation in the last year; Calderdale Council are opening libraries when other local authorities are closing them; there is a superb independent bar and restaurant scene; Glastonbury headliners Kasabian are playing at the Victoria Theatre; a BBC and HBO drama is being filmed at nearby Shibden Hall and media giants such as 6 Music and The Guardian are profiling our independent music venues. The town is really coming in to its own!

I moved to Halifax from London over twelve years ago and I can genuinely say that the last year has been the most exciting time to be a very proud adopted Haligonian.

AMBITION ACHIEVED

When I first took the role of Chief Executive of The Piece Hall Trust, I spoke a lot about our ambition to be ‘the Somerset House of the North’. It was an obvious point of reference for me, as Somerset House is probably closest to what we wanted to achieve - a heritage building that offered much more to visitors. But increasingly I’m finding I need to make that reference less and less. We are now The Piece Hall of Halifax and we’re becoming incomparable and recognised on a national scale purely for our own merits and stunning geography. 

Personally I was delighted to be recognised for my work through the honour of being added to the Northern Power Women 2018 Power List and ‘Influential Calderdale Women’ by the Halifax Courier. 

A HIGHLIGHT

My personal highlight of this last year has to be last month’s Royal Visit from Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, and having the chance to meet them and show them what The Piece Hall Trust has achieved with this beautiful building. 

During a quiet moment in the stairwell, when Prince Charles wasn’t surrounded by the throngs of people, he took the opportunity to quietly say to me “Everything you are doing here, from the shops to the events, is absolutely marvellous, and better than I could have imagined. Spot on. Please carry on Nicky”. I intend to.

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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