Big Ben has been making a lot of noise recently, perversely because it has gone quiet. And that’s because of its significant heritage restoration project (which will in turn be dwarfed by the preservation needs of the rest of the Palaces of Westminster). There is another ‘national treasure’ building about to undertake a similar journey – in Manchester. The Alfred Waterhouse-designed neo-gothic Town Hall (the architect also more famously designed the Natural History Museum) is 140 years old, and while it’s structurally sound it is really showing its age – with everything from wiring to stonework reaching the point where it’s in need of replacement or repair. So it’s in need of major work to safeguard it for future generations and ensure its fit for the 21st Century – both as a visitor destination and as the city’s local government HQ.
The project is called ‘Our Town Hall’, which neatly sums up the sense of who owns the building, and the shared stake that Mancunians have in its important role for the city. It’s also a clarion call to get involved in one of biggest refurbishments of a public building in the UK – it really is on a par with Westminster and Buckingham Palace in scale. That’s why the building will close in January 2018 and it will take until 2024 before it can re-open.
There is a wealth of amazing stories – of Manchester and its people – and the new opportunities for local people that this massive project will create, including apprenticeships, jobs and business opportunities. Creative Tourist is unsurprisingly thrilled to be involved in this hometown project – it’s our Town Hall too. We are now busy helping plan out the strategic communications with the Our Town Hall communications & engagement team and supporting a plan for the next seven years, designed to encourage local engagement in the project.