A popular circus director who hails from Preston has spoken of his sadness at Preston Guild Hall’s demise.
John Haze of the Circus of Horrors - which has been touring the world for 25 years - claims he is owed around £4,000 by Simon Rigby’s Guild Group Ltd, which runs the venue and hosted the circus show.
Mr Rigby announced on Wednesday the venue was being put into administration, but that he hoped a new operator would be in place within weeks to revive the hall.
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Mr Haze said he only found out about the problems at the Guild Hall from the media, and learned about the company going into administration by reading the Lancashire Post website.
He said: “It’s not right that people owed money have to read about the company going into administration by reading it in a newspaper.
“When I read the story I got in touch with the administrator and she told me the intention was to reopen the Guild Hall, so that is good news. But the chances of us getting our money back are grim.”
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He added: “This is the third year running that has happened to us. Each year we have been paid late.
“The first time our act was in February and we got paid in June despite the contract saying pay one month after the performance. In the second year of the reign of Simon Rigby our performance was in February and it was September by the time we got paid.
“This year, we were very nervous about it all, the shows were pulling out. I said to him on the day, 'Do you think we are going to get paid for this?'
“Mary the manager assured us we’d get paid within a month. Obviously I have heard all this about (promoter) Kenwright not getting paid.
“I didn’t get paid. I then said I’m phoning the Lancashire Post then lo and behold they paid £1,000 of the debt. Now they owe me £3,600 this year.
“Last year they didn’t pay me then they paid me late but it’s £360 short.”
He added: “I’m a Preston lad. I was born and brought up in Preston. My first ever gig was at the Guild Hall. I was there when the Guild Hall was being made. It has fun memories for me. I used to love going back and playing in my home town.
“I want to see it prosper, but unless a big operator is brought in, then the council have to step in. They have a responsibility here.
“Why on earth did they sell the Guild Hall for a £1 to Simon Rigby?
“Why not Ambassador Theatre Group or HQ or Parkwood? Parkwood is a Preston company.
“Not only would they not have to worry about the financial situation they could have put really great shows in Preston and that’s what it needed.
“If you look back on the Guild Hall performers David Bowie was there and Led Zeppelin played. They lost it all.
“There’s a big enough student population here, and if you got a big operator like Live Nation in, then you could run it as an academy for up-and-coming bands, or you could include it in the list of dates for when you get a high-profile performer. They have a contract with the operator, not the venue."
He added: “If we could get the Guild Hall open again I would be so happy. They are trying to regenerate Preston city centre and I can see it.
“The restaurants and businesses are going to lose out. It’s the knock-on effect of the economy. We will be losing out on all the extra people coming into watch a show at the Guild Hall and I don’t want that to happen to our city. I just want my city to have a thriving theatre again.”
Mr Rigby was approached for comment.