New chief executive wants to attract more visitors to Portsmouth’s Guildhall

PLANS From left, Portsmouth Cultural Trust's Marelize de Beurs, chief executive Andy Grays and Sharon Hammond. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (122503-1)
PLANS From left, Portsmouth Cultural Trust's Marelize de Beurs, chief executive Andy Grays and Sharon Hammond. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (122503-1)
The countryside surrounding Harting Down in the South Downs National Park, in West Sussex.

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MORE is going to be done to attract visitors to one of Portsmouth’s most iconic buildings.

That is the word of Andy Grays, the man at the helm of the not-for-profit trust which runs Portsmouth Guildhall.

Mr Grays, who became chief executive of Portsmouth Cultural Trust six weeks ago, wants the doors of the historic building to be open all day to the public.

And down the line he wants to create a lounge area and host museum exhibitions.

His vision for the Guildhall was put to the public at an event which marked the trust’s first year in business last night.

The organisation was set up after Portsmouth City Council realised the benefits of having one in the city.

Community leaders enjoyed nibbles as they watched a presentation which outlined the trust’s achievements to date and its plans for the future.

Mr Grays, who was formerly the director of arts for Luton Cultural Trust, said: ‘The last year has been a real journey for the trust.

‘We’ve been able to double concert bookings and we’ve built up a strong working relationship with Portsmouth City Council, which own the building and lease it to us.

‘Our new coffee shop has also really taken off.

‘Now we want to look forward and see what we can do to improve.

‘I want to keep the doors open throughout the day, and for that to happen we will need to install security hardware.

‘In a few years time I want people to know they can just walk in, relax in a lounge area, listen to a reading or recital and view a museum exhibition.

‘At the same time we want to see the Guildhall being known as a top music venue throughout the country.

‘My time here so far has been fascinating. What is fascinating about Portsmouth is that there is so much to offer.’

During the evening pictures of recent University of Portsmouth graduations were displayed on a screen. Dr Lillian Clark, of Portsmouth Business School, which is based at the university, said: ‘We’re excited about the possibility of getting involved in the Guildhall’s future plans.’