Giving the Guildhall the Wow Factor - Andy Grays Talks to AboutMyArea
|Published: 26th June 2012 13:33|
With a new and dynamic CEO at the reins, the Guildhall looks set for change. AboutMyArea met up with Andy Grays to find out more about his vision for one of Portsmouth's most iconic building.
Andy has only been at the Portsmouth Cultural Trust which manages the Guildhall since the 11th June but already he has his sights set on transforming how the Guildhall sits with the people of Portsmouth. With a vision to open up more parts of it to the public, Andy wants it to become a place where people relax and meet as well as become the best concert venue in the country.
A big ask you may think but Andy's background in theatre and culture should stand him in good stead. He has just come from the Luton Cultural Trust where he was the Director of Arts which included managing Luton's leading arts and entertainment venue, The Hat Factory.
Before that, Andy has enjoyed a long and established career which has included cinema, events and working at various theatres in the West End.
Andy says, "I am a lover of bricks and mortar. I like working around buildings and making them something special. My first job is to assess the space and make sense of what might be which includes the cafe and giving it a new sense of identity."
Andy doesn't want to hang around either and aims for the Guildhall to start becoming more accessible within six to nine months adding, " We have these wonderful steps but a closed door. People need to go through the doors and we need to give them a reason to come in."
"I would like to see the Guildhall open during the day, open up the lounges and bring in exhibitions and art to encourage the local people to come in and use it as a meeting point."
It was a stroke of luck and testimony to his talent for theatre that lead Andy down a very different path to his original plans of being an accountant. Starting with a casual job at the Theatre Royal in Windsor as a link man, Andy was introduced to someone who gave him a permanent position. He ditched his accountancy job and started on the path to what was become a successful career in culture and theatre, taking him to London's famous theatres such as Drury Lane and the London Palladium on the way.
In Andy's spare time he enjoys - you've guessed it - visiting the theatre and cites it as a good night out for him and his wife. He also admits to dragging his family round to galleries, country houses and museums and is looking forward to what Portsmouth and the surrounding area has to offer.
With his family relocating to Hayling Island with him very soon, Andy will soon be exploring and said, "They've already been to Gunwharf and liked that. I'm really looking forward to experiencing the whole area and the kids are at the age where they appreciate it."
Andy might even be providing one of those events to explore. He has managed many outdoor events and since 2005 he has organised the Luton International Carnival which is the largest 1 day carnival in Europe with up to 150,000 people attending. Andy said, "It would be nice to work with other partners to do more."
This all sounds very exciting for the people of Portsmouth who have just started to discover more of the Guildhall which has started to host events such as the Boutique Market and Days Gone Bye.
Andy sums up, "I want the Guildhall to be the best concert venue in the country for customers and promoters but offer so much more than just concerts. I want people to come in say 'wow'".