When plans for Yorkshire to host the first stage of the Tour de France were first announced, it seemed like an impossible dream.
But the county got behind the idea and it became one of biggest and most memorable events to ever grace the north.
Now it’s hoped that same enthusiasm and energy seen in 2014 can be pumped into making the Great Exhibition of the North just as big - right here in Halifax.
The £5 million event, planned for summer 2018, will showcase the best of the north’s art, culture and design to national and international audiences.
And as Halifax throws its hat into the ring to host the multi-million pound, two-month celebration of the North of England, we are backing the campaign to showcase all that’s great about the town and put it on the world stage.
The exhibition forms part of Chancellor George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse project and aims bring a huge boost to the regional economy.
Newcastle, Bradford and Harrogate have already said they will bid, but it’s hoped Halifax could race ahead of stiff competition thanks to its rich history and heritage and show it really is the ‘jewel in Yorkshire’s crown’.
While plans are being kept under wraps ahead of the June 30 deadline, it’s likely the exhibition would make use of the newly-transformed Piece Hall for outdoor events, Dean Clough Mills, Eureka, Square Chapel, Orangebox the Victoria Theatre and Halifax Minster.
The bid is being led by a partnership between The Piece Hall, Eureka and Dean Clough and it wants to deliver an exhibition in Halifax which recognises the crucial role of market and mill towns in the Northern Powerhouse vision.
Sam Mason, chief executive of The Piece Hall Trust, said: “The Great Exhibition of the North is an opportunity to showcase everything the north has to offer. At the time The Piece Hall was built, Halifax was one of the great industrial towns of the north – a place of international trade from which financial services, manufacturing and, ultimately, the industrial revolution grew.
“We’re now on the cusp of a resurgence for the North of England and it is the market and mill towns – of which Halifax is a gem – that will benefit most from hosting a Great Exhibition, whilst once again being the backbone of the economy of the Northern Powerhouse and of the UK.”
Five hundred years ago, Halifax was the most important wool-trading town in the country with links across the world – the threads created by this archetypal Northern town connected the North of England to the world’s great markets. For more than 200 years those threads grew stronger, weaving throughout the region and bringing great wealth and prosperity to its farms, market towns and cities - placing the area at the heart of global trade.
Today, spaces of industry have been revitalised across Halifax to deliver a 21st century vision. Dean Clough’s 20-acre site was once the world’s largest carpet factory, Crossley Carpets, and is now one of the largest arts, culture and creative hubs in the region. Eureka, the National Children’s Museum, offers a unique opportunity for children, young people and families to explore exhibitions.
And The Piece Hall, dating from 1779, is the sole-surviving example of the great cloth halls of the north. Currently undergoing a £19million renovation, with support from Calderdale Council and Heritage Lottery Fund, it will become a retail and dining destination, while its stunning central courtyard will provide a magnificent space for open air and covered events.
Councillor Tim Swift, leader of Calderdale Council, said the council is fully behind Halifax’s bid to host the Great Exhibition of the North.
“We think this is a wonderful initiative which gives us a fantastic opportunity to showcase the fabulous heritage and cultural assets of the borough and highlight the best culture on offer in the north,” he said.
“We believe that Halifax, which is an outstanding cultural destination, will play the perfect host to this forward-looking celebration of the best art, culture, design.
“We have a proven track record of hosting big events like the Tour de France in 2014 and the Rugby World Cup. The transformed Piece Hall will be a world class destination which we are keen to share with others.
“Calderdale is renowned for its diverse arts and cultural offer and is the perfect place to host the exhibition. I hope local businesses and residents get on board with the bid and help us once again put Calderdale on the world stage.”
Jeremy Hall, chairman and managing director at Dean Clough, said the town leads the way as a prime example of the role market and mill towns can play as part of the Northern Powerhouse in the 21st century.
And Leigh-Anne Stradeski, chief executive of Halifax children’s museum Eureka, hailed the bid as a fantastic oppportunity to showcase everything the town has to offer and to kickstart key developments planned at Eureka in the long term.
She said: “Our Great Northern Shed, which forms a key part of our development plans going forward, would be a central venue for the Great Exhibition, building on the railway heritage of the site and the impressive industrial past of Halifax.
“The Great Exhibition of the North could help write the next chapter for Halifax and we’re fully behind this bid.”
The Government will contribute £5 million towards the exhibition itself and a further £15 million into a legacy fund to attract further cultural investment in the Northern Powerhouse.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said the exhibition is a fantastic opportunity to promote the region’s culture to people from both home and abroad.
He added: “Halifax boasts some wonderful cultural institutions and I look forward to seeing the bid.”
Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, has been appointed by the Chancellor George Osborne to chair the Great Exhibition Board that will report to ministers on the applications.
“The Great Exhibition of the North will showcase the best of our art, design and culture to the world in 2018 and will help bring the whole region together,” he said.
“I look forward to seeing the high quality bids from towns and cities across the North.”