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25 years of Gloucester Guildhall: From political hub to arts centre

By The Citizen  |  Posted: March 15, 2013

  • THAT WAS THEN: Gloucester's Guildhall.

  • THIS IS NOW: The Guildhall in Eastgate Street today.

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IT used to be the political epicentre in Gloucester, but 25 years ago the Guildhall became home to the city's art scene.

In a series looking at the past, present and future of the venue, Dan Charles looks at how it became a thriving hub for live music, art, theatre, comedy, cinema and more besides.

The building itself dates back to the 1880s when it was built to house Gloucester City Council.

What is now the cinema used to ring with the voice of authority as the council chamber, and the main hall was once the assembly hall.

All council meetings were held there, while election results were read from the balcony overlooking Eastgate Street every May.

It was only in 1985 that the council decided to move into the North Warehouse at Gloucester Docks, where they still are to this day, and cash in on the Guildhall.

Hugh Worsnip, of the Gloucester Civic Trust, said: "The council wanted to get the Docks going so they moved there.

"They sold the ground floor and the basement of the Guildhall to Cheltenham and Gloucester Building Society for £3.3million and they are still in there today.

"They bought the Northern Warehouse and did it up with some of that money and then afterwards they were left with a spare Guildhall. So it became the arts centre that we know."

Mr Worsnip was in one of the first rock and roll bands to perform at the Guildhall too and added: "Back in the 1960s I was in a band called Beatnicks and we had to persuade the council to allow us to play as rock and roll wasn't thought of too well!

"They let us play though in the end."

The Guildhall was heavily refurbished and opened in 1988.

Pat Roberts, from Gloucester, started working at there when it opened as an arts centre and retired two years ago.

She said: "I have some great memories from my time there.

"I met many of my heroes over the years, it was a really exciting place.

"I was the workshop and class coordinator, and a few of the classes are still going today. We used to have a pottery too with a kiln for pottery classes, but it went wrong once and it was too expensive to put right.

There was a big community feel when it opened, and I guess that is still going on today.

"The decor has changed over the years and it has modernised but a lot of it is still as it was."

These days, the venue is renowned for hosting up-and-coming bands.

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