King’s Hall deserves more chances to shine

Last week 350 guests, resplendent in their finery, attended the City of Stoke-on-Trent Sports Personality of the Year Awards.
Having organised the event, I’m bound to say it was a good do – and it was.
A joint venture between this newspaper and the city council, it’s a classic public/private partnership.
The awards night enables Stoke-on-Trent to showcase the very best of its sporting talent and reward all the unsung heroes – the grassroots coaches and volunteers which nurture that ability.
An olympic gold medal-winner rubbed shoulders with a World Cup-winning footballer, former England cricketers, Potteries football icons, MPs and a host of civic dignitaries.
Black tie and evening wear for ladies, read the invitation, and I have to say we all scrubbed up well.
At a time of austerity there will be those who will question the merit of such events – and the cost.
But the truth is that if we aspire to be a city worth the name then we have to demonstrate that we can stage events which have that ‘wow factor’ and which make visitors sit up and take notice.
What made this year’s awards ceremony rather special was the venue which hosted it.
The King’s Hall in Stoke is a real architectural gem and, following its interior makeover a couple of years ago, the grand old lady really sparkles on nights such as last Thursday.
Aside from having wonderful acoustics, the hall itself is a magnificent visual treat – with its ornate plasterwork, chandeliers and imposing stage with its choir stalls and voluminuous red drapes.
Having compèred several events there myself I can tell you that the King’s Hall is the perfect venue for everything from glitzy awards ceremonies to veterans’ celebrations – from prayer breakfasts to good, old-fashioned discos.
What a shame it is then that this wonderful asset is so under-used.
Indeed, I wonder how many people in our city ever have cause to visit the King’s Hall – particularly anyone under the age of 30.
At present, the King’s Hall makes do with election counts, the odd wedding and occasional use by specific interest groups.
Only half a dozen times a year does the venue actually come alive with music, entertainment and genuine celebration which embraces all sections of our community.
If the King’s Hall was in another city I dare say it would be playing host to at least a couple of decent gigs every week.
I won’t try to claim this as my idea, because it wasn’t, but why don’t we have a music promoter touting the venue around for bands?
Let’s face it, Stoke is hardly a hive of activity after 7pm.
Just think of the potential boost to the town’s economy – to shops, bars, cafe’s and pubs – if 2,000 people were packing out the King’s Hall a couple of times a week to see their favourite musicians, singers or comedians.
It wouldn’t take much. The venue is almost ready – aside from a modest investment backstage to create some decent dressing rooms.
This may all seem like pie in the sky at a time when leisure facilities are being closed as part of local authority cutbacks but I believe the King’s Hall is different.
Attached to the council’s Civic Headquarters, this venue will continue to host events irrespective of the financial climate.
The question is: can we maximise its potential and that all of all the other dormant and under-used civic assets across the city?
Forget Hanley: it already has a Cultural Quarter and is finally undergoing the kind of bread-and-butter regeneration which turn it into a thriving city centre.
However, to use a marketing concept, I believe that it is vital that the other five towns each finds its own unique selling point (USP).
Aside from boasting a Minster church, it strikes me that the King’s Hall is Stoke’s USP and much more should therefore be done to promote it.
Do you think more use should be made of the King’s Hall and other civic assets?

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