With the opening today - Tuesday, August 1 - of the historic Piece Hall following its £19m renovation (gates to be opened around 9.30am), a new cultural quarter of the town is expected to bring in 1.6 million visitors per year to Halifax.
This should have a knock-on beneficial effect for the wider economy of both the town and Calderdale, it is believed.
Some of the funding for the Piece Hall scheme has come from the Heritage Lottery, helping transform the site to meet 21st century challenges while retaining all its Georgian beauty.
Culture is leading the regeneration of Halifax, and the completion of the Piece Hall marks a dynamic new chapter for the town which has recently seen £40m investment into major cultural facilities.
A new east extension at the Piece Hall provides facilities for a three-story restaurant and cocktail bar and links through to Square Chapel Arts Centre which recently opened a new £6.6m extension featuring a new theatre, cinema and café bar. New gateway connections have also been made between The Piece Hall and Orange Box Young People’s Centre; the council’s new purpose-built Central Library and Archive and the Calderdale Industrial Museum, with the latter expected to open in September.
This new cultural quarter will also benefit from £120m of investment into improving transport and infrastructure from the station through to Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and has also attracted a further £10 million of investment in recent years.
Ros Kerslake, chief executive at the Heritage Lottery Fund, added: “The Piece Hall and its courtyard are pivotal players in the history of Halifax and West Yorkshire. Our investment of £7m of National Lottery players’ money has been integral to its redevelopment and means that it can be enjoyed much more widely than before.
“Whilst it’s lost none of its character as a vibrant 18th-century trading place, it’s now a much more welcoming civic space where people will be able to work, meet, learn and relax.”
The sloping central courtyard has been levelled, creating one of the most striking piazzas in Europe, fit for 21st century public use, and measuring a vast 66,000 sq ft.
It will host a seasonal programme of events with capacity for up to 7,500 people, set against the dramatic backdrop of the Georgian arcades. The courtyard features new lighting, seating and two cascading water features designed by The Fountain Company, which sit within the north-west and south-east corners and subtly interpret the historical importance of water in the production of cloth.
Three new spaces are dedicated to The Piece Hall’s remarkable heritage and its significance as the only surviving cloth hall in the UK.
The interpretation spaces include The Piece Hall Story which reveals the history of The Piece Hall with a particular focus on the Georgian period during its heyday as a cloth hall and a magnet for the world’s woollen trade; a Trader’s Unit – fitted out with audio visuals to recreate the atmosphere of a bustling trading day in the Piece Hall; and the Map Room with interactive displays to enable visitors to explore a range of local, national and international maps which place the Piece Hall in its global context.
To mark the reopening of The Piece Hall as a landmark cultural destination, a series of free events, entitled ‘Welcome’ will take place over three weekends in August and September, supported by Arts Council England and Calderdale Council.
Highlights include Architects of Air’s Albesila - a giant extraordinary inflated sculpture in which visitors are invited immerse themselves in a vivid world of colour and a magical high-flying aerial spectacle, ‘Enchanted Chandelier’, by award-winning French company, Transe Express.