What a difference a year makes.
Twelve months ago the sawdust was still being blown off the £19m transformation of the Piece Hall, which has since welcomed royalty, sporting legends, Grammy-winning music stars and no fewer than 2.4m visitors through its iconic doors.
But bosses are looking forward, not back, as the first anniversary of the famous old cloth hall’s official re-opening arrives on Yorkshire Day, August 1.
“It’s been an absolute whirlwind of a year,” said Piece Hall Trust chief executive Nicky Chance-Thompson, “it’s a bit like a swan, I guess, it looks all smooth and calm on top, but in reality you’re paddling like mad underneath the water to keep things moving forward.
“I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved in just a few months here, but this is just the start. We’re laying the foundations for years and years of continued success.
“People were so nervous about how this was going to turn out, and rightly so, because its such an iconic and important piece of Halifax. But what we’ve built is a brand people believe in, and now its about building on that reputation.”
Part of the vision for the next few months is to continue the success of the Piece Hall’s big-ticket events after a year that seen Calderdale’s tourism industry skyrocket to a value of £328m.
Councillor Tim Swift, Leader of Calderdale Council, said: “The transformation of The Piece Hall has kick-started the incredible revitalisation of Halifax and Calderdale, boosting our area’s national and international profile.
“It’s having remarkable impacts as part of Halifax’s thriving cultural quarter, playing a major part in regenerating the town, strengthening the local and regional economy and enhancing local pride.
“This is reflected in the many awards won, and is helping to achieve the Vision 2024 for Calderdale to be a place where people want to live, work, visit and invest.”
The Trust is working alongside well-known promoters to accelerate their standing in the live music circuit.
Nicky said: “The feedback is that people enjoy the unique, more intimate venues more to stadiums now, and that puts us in a good position.
“It’s a really tough bidding process and we’re up against the BBC, Glastonbury, Kendal Calling and the like, but the success of the Father John Misty gig has given us a platform to go after recognisable names. Next year is looking pretty good.”
Nicky says the Trust has learned from events that received negative feedback, such as the Christmas Market laid on last year.
“We tried to take on too much there, absolutely,” she admitted, “we tried to pull the whole thing together ourselves and unfortunately we were let down by a few people at the last minute. I can absolutely understand people’s frustrations with Christmas.
“What we’ll do differently this time is allow an independent company to deliver it on our behalf, like we have done the Chow Down events. It’s all part of the learning process.”
A handful of retail units remain empty at the Piece Hall, something that Nicky says the Trust are unworried by. The largest, in the prime south-east corner of the site, will soon be partly filled by a Trust-run restaurant.
“I could fill those spaces tomorrow,” she said, “but we’ve got to make sure the tenant is right for us and fits into what we’re trying to achieve here. We’ve got very specific criteria.
“We’re ahead of schedule, but this isn’t a race against time. This is about building something for the future, to continue Halifax’s resurgence on an international scale. We won’t allow this to be a flash in the pan.”