Q&A with the Guildhall Trust - and meet the Chief Exec!

White Rock Theatre Q&A with The Guildhall Trust

What is the Trust’s creative and cultural vision for White Rock Theatre?

The Trust’s vision is to develop White Rock Theatre and its programme and to work collaboratively with local partners to ensure engagement with the cultural ecosystem.

What are the Trust’s intended policies for White Rock, both short and longer term?
We’re looking to broaden the diversity of the offer at White Rock to widen engagement. We will be investing in a superior rock PA system which will make the venue more attractive to some of the bigger music promoters, and we’re also looking to invest in the quality of the programme – for example, developing the classical provision on offer.

We plan to develop the Studio into an active performance and community space and deliver a programme of community events that engage the region. We also want to reflect on the heritage and architecture of the venue.

How will you work with Hastings Council to implement these policies?
Hastings Borough Council selected The Guildhall Trust because of the plans that we presented, and we now need to deliver on those plans. The local authority will be a key stakeholder and we will report to them on how we are supporting in the delivery of their cultural strategy.

How do you plan to engage with local community groups?
It is the vision of The Guildhall Trust to inspire, entertain and transform lives, placing its communities at the centre of everything we do. The team at White Rock already deliver some great workshops, classes and opportunities for adults and young people, and we will work with them to develop the Get Involved programme and a Creative Skills development programme for schools.

We will also introduce Dance Live!, our dance contest for schools and colleges, into the venue. White Rock is used by many community organisations for their events and performances, and we are working with them to continue and develop these relationships.

What changes are you planning to make to the current White Rock team?
We will be adding to and developing the team at White Rock, who will be empowered to run the venue with support from colleagues at the Trust. We will be introducing a new Box Office system into White Rock with our Ticketing Partner, Eventim.Inhouse, and will be developing the Box Office, Programming and Marketing teams, who will have autonomy to continue developing the programme, with support as needed from the Trust.

What money will be invested into the venue?
Initially our investment will be in the development of the Studio space, equipment such as the new sound system, and new Box Office systems. Longer term, we will be developing a five-year plan to identify how we want to develop the venue and programme, and as a charity, there will be opportunities to fundraise to support this.

Will the Guildhall be receiving any financial support from the Council?
Hastings Borough Council will be making an initial contribution to support the delivery of the lease and an annual contribution towards the maintenance of the building.

What impact will taking over White Rock have for the Portsmouth Guildhall?
Becoming the operator of White Rock will enhance the reputation of The Guildhall Trust within the sector, which will be of benefit to the Guildhall.

Learn More About Andy Grays Chief Executive Officer

Andy has been the Guildhall Trust’s only CEO since his appointment in 2012. He trained in venue management with the Apollo Leisure Group in the late 1980s, before joining Stoll Moss Theatres, where he managed several of their West End venues including the Duchess and Lyric Theatres. He worked on several West End shows, including the opening of Miss Saigon and Five Guys Named Moe. In 1993 he re-opened the Towngate Theatre in Basildon, working with many middle-scale touring theatre and dance producers.

In 2003 he was appointed Creative Director of the new Hat Factory Art Centre and Luton Library Theatre, successfully launching the Hat Factory and establishing it as a contemporary arts venue. He produced several large community events across Luton including the annual Summer Festival in the town square, and oversaw the annual pantomime at the Library Theatre. He has worked as a mentor and trustee with several contemporary theatre and dance companies.

In 2012 he took on his biggest challenge to date, to reimagine Portsmouth Guildhall, thereby re­ establishing it as both a commercial and community entity against a background of a reducing local authority grant. As well as CEO, Andy oversees all programming and events development and leads on the Trust’s capital and fundraising initiatives. Andy is Chair of the Portsmouth Conference Bureau and has been instrumental in forming the Portsmouth Cultural Collective. He is also a member of the Concert Promoters Association and the British Association of Concert Halls.

Andy manages the organisation’s strategic and corporate planning, local authority reporting, programming and leads on fundraising. Over the past 10 years he has introduced over £2.Sm of revenue and capital funding to the Guildhall Trust.

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