THE Halifax Piece Hall should be the “People’s Place,” Somewhere for individuals and groups to gather. Somewhere for Halifax to be proud.
Its architecture already provides a backdrop against which exciting events can take place, similar to Greek Amphitheatres and the Roman Colosseum, drawing people in to enjoy the spectacles! The balconies provide ready made and sheltered viewing points onto the plaza below.
A permanent platform or stage, in place of the temporary one, now frequently and successfully used could be constructed. A semi-circular area of steps in front of this to provide seating would give real purpose to the slope. It is almost a natural arena.
The present upper floor “shops” which at the moment are seldom used, could be made into “boxes” from which events could be viewed in comfort and the balcony would provide shelter. Rather like hospitality boxes, hired at football and sports stadiums booked in advance. Initially these facing the stage should be refurbished inside and if popular, more could be renovated.
Halifax already has creative talent in its actors, musicians and artists but there would be no difficulty attracting performances from wider afield, once such a central and popular venue became established and known.
Older Halifax residents recall performances of Shakespeare in the open, as is seen at Kirkstall Abbey or the Mystery Plays in York. There were grand communal singing events as depicted in the Victorian painting at Bankfield Museum, brass bands, Christmas festivals and more.
The Piece Hall is and should continue to be the place where people can come together.
According to shopholders in the Piece Hall, the grass areas, particularly in good weather, are full of people enjoying lunch breaks or playing with children.
We need as much green area as possible. Trees, shrubs, grass soften, what at present, from the artists visual is lacking in warmth or soul.
The sandpit is a great success for parents wishing to relax with young children. Water features also soften areas - while not seeking to emulate those of the Alhambra in Spain, perhaps one could be designed to be in sympathy with the needs of smaller children, one with which they can safely interest on their scale as in Cologne and other European cities.
To design one would be a great commission for a creative sculptor whose name would also help put Halifax Piece Hall on the map.
We are short of dramatic sculptures!
The proposal to build a skateboard area for young people, especially those pre-legal pub age and in need of safe meeting places is important. This I understand is to be annexed to the Piece Hall and not detrimental to the architecture of this listed building. I hope this will be free as in Amsterdam and many inner cities.
The Piece Hall has been a good arena for vintage car and motor bike rallies. It could also hold horticultural displays (from our excellent Halifax Parks Department), even small animal shows, after all in the 1700’s sheep grazed in here!
I do not think it necessary to move the existing ground floor shops but having small bistros, wine bars, curry houses and cafes of international cuisine on the second floor, below the hospitality boxes would enable clients to view the arena and would be a visual attraction, particularly when lit at night.
Hebden Bridge has evolved to become a popular and well-established tourist destination. With some imagination and creative thinking, Halifax has the resources to become equally successful. It would be tragic if Halifax missed the opportunity, not only to emulate Hebden Bridge, but surpass it.
Phil & Christine Gibson