Cancelled shows at the Guild Hall will go on... elsewhere in Preston
The show will go on - but somewhere else.
There is a scramble to find new venues for a host of events after the Great Hall and Charter Theatre at Preston’s Guild Hall were suddenly closed.
Organisers of dance performances, award ceremonies, gigs and international festivals have all said they are committed to hosting their productions but finding performance spaces with the capacity equivalent to the Charter Theatre or Great Hall is a huge headache.
One dance school, whose parents have forked out more than £7,200 in total for tickets for a showcase, is worried it will not find another host venue big enough to support the audience numbers it is expecting to a show in just three weeks time.
Organisers panicking about the future of a festival celebrating South Korean culture, with international delegates flying in from the peninsula, have managed to book another venue.
Meanwhile owner of the Guild Hall, businessman Simon Rigby, says the production company, VMS Live, which is set to take over the running of the city centre venue, is still aiming to take over the reins - but the Post has recieved no confirmation from VMS directly of this despite a series of calls to the company.
Harriet Gingell, 26, owner of Sparkle Dance studio in Preston, is trying to pin down another venue for her 157 students’ performance of Cirque Du Sparkle which is only weeks away, on Saturday, June 22.
She said: “I went down to the Guild Hall on Thursday and they pointed me to the operations manager - he was the only person working there and he was going home at 5pm and not going back, so there’s nobody to speak to. We have this show every year and we were all ready - we have costumes and the Guild Hall has taken £7,200 on tickets from my clients.
“It’s a shambles. I was there on Tuesday having a meeting with the technicians for three hours discussing light and sound and on Thursday it closed.
“The show is in three weeks and I’m sitting trying to figure out what to do. I’m talking to Cardinal Newman College as there’s a chance we could do three shows there.
“It’s not going to be the same experience now that we can’t use the Guild Hall. It was an impressive venue. The children were so excited about it.
“All the time and effort we’ve put into it. The disappointment on the kids’ faces will be awful.”
Dr Sojin Lim, senior lecturer in Korean Studies at The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), told the Post that she has had to scramble to rearrange a venue for an initial meeting to prepare for a Lancashire Korea Festival which was due to take place at the Guild Hall on September 28 but arrangements are being finalised at the moment.
She is organising the festival as part of a scheme, which funds cultural projects outside South Korea, with the Jeonbuk Province in South West region of South Korea.
The UK was the one country in the whole of Europe which got the festival of Korean culture to come and Preston was chosen because UCLan boasts the highest number of Korean Studies students.
She said: “It’s just been a panic because they are coming from South Korea for the preparation meeting at the Guild Hall. We have a team of managers for dance, music and food all coming to a pre-meeting day at the Guild Hall.
“They need to see the venue and see how it will work on the day. Korean broadcast journalists will also join the actual festival in September.
“The venue was good due to its capacity for people as it was planned for the public. We had a preliminary meeting with the Guild Hall in March but we needed the teams coming over to see the space and that meeting was booked for June 3.
“It is very disappointing that we were not informed about this sudden closure, especially when we are expecting visitors. It’s embarrassing for everyone.
“As we are uncertain about Guild Hall availability, and also the event cannot be organised without venue check-up, we now decided to change the venue to 53 Degrees at UCLan. It’s a little bit smaller than the Guild Hall.”
As shows grapple to cope with the announcement of the closure of the two auditoriums at the Guild Hall, owner Simon Rigby says he has every confidence that they will reopen under the management of VMS Live.
He said: “VMs remain committed to running it for us. We are full steam ahead. I have no worries about it. I would expect to be making a full announcement in a couple of weeks.”
Asked if customers who have bought tickets, such as the parents of the Sparkle Dance school, will be refunded Mr Rigby said: “All the tickets which the Guild Hall has sold will be honoured. The Guild Hall will be responsible with dealing with that. Hopefully the events will go ahead. As far as I’m concerned the sooner it’s reopened the better and that’s what we are working on.”
For people looking for a refund the email address given by Mr Rigby as a contact point sends out an automatic reply, signed by Preston Guild Hall Management. It states: “Thank you for contacting Preston Guild Hall Ltd.
“Preston Guildhall and Charter theatre are currently closed. We will endeavour to provide further information in due course regarding customer refunds and scheduled shows.”
Mr Rigby said the email would be manned “soon”. He added: “We are still sorting that out.”
He also confirmed that some of the locks and codes on the auditoriums had been changed and told the Post he did not inform show organisers about the closure ahead of the announcement as he had a duty to inform staff first.
Regarding his creditors, Mr Rigby said: “Guild Hall Ltd is still taking advice on the best way of dealing with this. It’s ongoing. We will announce what will be happening in the coming weeks.”
The Post has still not yet heard back from VMS Live about what its future intentions are regarding the Guild Hall.Reaction from Entertainment booked at the Guild Hall:A spokesman for Bongo Bingo said: “We are working very hard with The Guild in Preston with regards to the venue’s unfortunate and unexpected closure.
“We love our events at The Guild, and hope to be able to continue with our next show there, with special guest Basshunter, on Friday, June 28.
“Rest assured that if we can’t host the forthcoming show at The Guild, we will find another suitable location.
“Please be patient with us whilst we work this one out, we will be in touch very soon.”Peter Barton, manager of From The Jam, said: “The first we heard about it was yesterday (May 30), from a third party, not the Guild itself.
“Personally, I think it is completely and utterly disrespectful to the band and their fans.
“It’s a real disappointment because From The Jam have been selling out shows around the county. Around the world in fact. And I’m absolutely confident that our Preston gig would have been a sell-out.
“We will try and look at finding another suitable venue in Preston and we will let fans know as soon as we can whether the gig can still go ahead.
“But in my experience, changing venues brings with it all kinds of complications. And as far as I’m aware, there aren’t many other music venues left in Preston that can accommodate us.
“We’ll know more next week and we’ll make sure to keep our fans in the loop.”
In a joint statement members of the band said: “The band and management have been made aware and as I understand another venue is being sought. It is a shame. We hope to try and
find somewhere suitable soon so we can play to all our fans in Preston.”Cloudbusting - The Music of Kate BushManagement said: “We have not yet been contacted by VMS Live regarding cancelling, postponing or relocating the show.
“Going by the information in the official press release it is suggested that the closure may only be for a few weeks so our show may not be affected.
“We have contacted VMS Live and are awaiting a response with clarification that we can share.”Guns 2 Roses
The band said: “Oh no, really? We were not told a thing!
“I just spoke to my promoter and arrangements are being made to salvage the gigs booked in an alternate venue.
“We are looking forward to rocking Preston and look forward to meeting all of our fans.”Management at venue VIVA Blackpool have pledged their support to ensure shows, parties and events already in the calendar can still go ahead.
Martin Heywood, joint owner of VIVA Blackpool, said: “We are deeply saddened that the Guild Hall has had to close its doors; this is a venue of great stature playing host to many
memorable events. It can’t have been an easy decision and we do hope that Mr Rigby is able to find a suitable buyer to keep the venue alive.
“In the meantime, we are already receiving many calls from those affected and want to assure everyone that if we can, we are available to help and host any events and parties already
booked at the Guild Hall. As venues we need to rally round and support those affected and with a gesture of goodwill are able to offer them a 25 per cent discount off our usual rates. We
know there is a lot of uncertainty amongst people who were using the venue and we hope this offer will go some way to alleviating any additional worries they may have.”
VIVA Blackpool is on 01253 297 297.