An historic landmark in Newcastle-under-Lyme town centre, which dates back to 1713 is busy, full of life and providing a useful range of services to the local community.
That is the conclusion of a 12-month arrangement with Support Staffordshire who have agreed to continue managing the Guildhall while its long-term future is decided.
The county-wide voluntary sector support organisation took over the running of the iconic building, opening a community and voluntary sector hub, in January 2019 following the relocation of Council staff to Castle House. It’s aiming to build on a successful year which saw the meeting room, office and desk space rented by a variety of non-profit organisations.
Volunteer receptionists from Friends of the Guildhall have helped to co-ordinate the reception for a series of community events and more than 4,000 customer enquiries were answered.
There has been a steady increase in the number of people using the Guildhall, with newer bookings including a regular presence by the Midlands Foundation NHS Trust for its Wellbeing Service and a five-day coaching course run by the Institute of Swimming. Support Staffordshire also started a new volunteering service, funded by the European Social Fund.
Existing tenants alongside Support Staffordshire include Newcastle-under-Lyme Business Improvement District – who occupy the first floor – Staffordshire Adults Autistic Society, the Shaw Trust, Moneyline and Rethink. Events have included a mock Mayor making, food fest
and heritage day, crafts, screen print demonstration and a Macmillan Coffee Morning. Plus local radio presenter, Johnny Owen held a book signing organised with the Hitmix 107.5FM in January this year.
Most of the running costs are expected to be covered by income generated by building use with the Council continuing to look after the fabric of the Grade II listed building, as well as the statutory inspections and related maintenance costs. The Friends of the Guildhall continue to have volunteers manning the main reception and are developing a business plan with the intention of eventually taking on a management
role at the Guildhall.
Council Leader Simon Tagg said: “I’m delighted that Support Staffordshire, the largest independent voice for voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations in Staffordshire, has agreed to extend the management arrangements at the Guildhall and look forward to seeing this successful partnership develop even further with our continued support. The intention was to keep our much-loved Guildhall in public use, supporting footfall in the heart of the town centre, and this has certainly been achieved in a short space of time. It’s fantastic to see this magnificent venue playing such an active role in the town by providing a range of services that residents want such as money advice, mental health support and help with finding volunteering and employment opportunities.”
Jill Norman, North Staffordshire Operations Manager for Support Staffordshire, added: “The Guildhall is such a lovely historic building offering a light, bright, accessible space for a variety of community uses. We are pleased to continue working with the Borough Council to enhance this vibrant hub. It’s a busy place but there is still room for more activities here.”
**To book the reception and foyer space, or express an interest in helping with providing reception cover, please visit the Guildhall or e-mail email@example.com Anyone interested in renting a customer service desk or the meeting room can e-mail Jill at firstname.lastname@example.org