Main Hall Stage, Grimsby Central HallIt was a remarkable achievement during the depressed 1930’s and, in today’s terms, cost almost £1.5 million to build; much of that contributed by local people. The building emerged ‘standing like a shining beacon amidst its shabby surroundings’, as one observer commented, and permanently changed the East Marsh skyline.

The official opening created such a stir that the clamour to enter the building required police to control an excitable crowd.

Although conceived by the Methodist Church as the first Central Hall built in Lincolnshire, there was always an intention that it should be more than just a place of worship. In addition to use as a community centre, there was a strong belief that it should develop as a concert venue and, amazingly, there was even a fully equipped projection room to allow for use as a cinema.

Laying The Musical Foundation Stone...

Twenty-four hours after the official opening, Grimsby Madrigal Society delivered a well-received performance of Handel’s Solomon and thus laid a musical foundation stone that has reverberated across the decades.

Many local music societies quickly embraced this new concert venue, unable to resist the temptation of superb acoustics and the appeal of plush comfortable seating for their audiences. This close involvement in the cultural life of the area remains as strong today.

For many people, music is a passion and one Saturday night during 1941, even the threat from Luftwaffe bombers overhead failed to disrupt a performance of Handel’s Messiah by Grimsby Philharmonic Society.

The Threat...

Although the Central Hall quickly became the popular beating heart of local music life, as the years passed, permanent closure became a constant threat.

In the late 1980’s, that threat became a reality, but local music societies were unwilling to accept the demise of their spiritual home. Under the inspirational leadership of the late Roy Kemp, they established a charitable trust with the aim of maintaining the building and ensuring the continuation of a viable performing arts venue in North East Lincolnshire.

The view from the stage in the Main Hall at Grimsby Central HallRising Like The Phoenix…

Upon formation of the Trust, the Methodist Church generously surrendered the building in exchange for a peppercorn rent; this remains a mutually amicable arrangement and one that the Trust greatly appreciates.

This independent charitable trust, a not for profit organisation, continues to administer Grimsby Central Hall, as it has successfully done so for more than 20 years. Nine local trustees voluntarily donate their time and professional experience aided by the support of a dedicated small team of part-time staff and an army of volunteers.

Creating a Musical Legacy…

Over the last 75 years or so, the Central Hall has offered a surprising diversity of entertainment.

World-famous orchestras such as the Hallé and the BBC Symphony have shared the stage with heavy rock bands Iron Maiden and Hawkwind, though not at the same time. International jazz legends Stéphane Grappelli and Humphrey Lyttelton helped establish the Hall as a home for jazz whilst Sasha Distel, Gilbert O’Sullivan and Showaddywaddy were amongst those who have dominated the pop charts.

The best brass bands in the country have become perennial favourites and big swing bands always prove popular. In 2012, it was a privilege to host the John Miller Orchestra, led by the legendary Glenn Miller’s nephew.

Meanwhile in 2011, rock icon Ian Anderson, of Jethro Tull fame, chose the Hall as one of a limited number of venues for his first-ever UK acoustic tour, attracting fans from all over the country. In that year we also welcomed chart-toppers from the rock n roll era plus a star from one of Hollywood’s iconic 20th century movies.

In October 2012, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first chart hit, Love Me Do, with a very special concert featuring The Mersey Beatles, Liverpool’s official tribute band and the only one endorsed by John Lennon’s sister.

Underpinning these headline performances, of course, is a huge variety of entertainment provided by the home-grown talent in North East Lincolnshire. This reflects the diversity for which the Central Hall is renowned; musical theatre, orchestral concerts, pantomime, choral concerts and musical revues are but a flavour of a vibrant programme of shows.

Looking To The Future…

There is never a dull moment at the Central Hall; it remains a hive of activity 7 days a week, as not only a show and concert venue, but also a meeting place for many local clubs and societies. As talk of regenerating Freeman Street once again gathers pace, its destiny as that ‘shining beacon’ looks set to re-emerge in the 21st century.

When so many of the borough’s distinctive and much-loved buildings have already been lost, it seems all the more crucial to preserve the few that are left.

If only walls could talk, what stories the Central Hall would reveal. Yet, maintaining and improving this iconic building is a huge and expensive responsibility. In the last five years alone, we have invested more than £100,000, and yes, we know there is still much to do.

The Central Hall, an important part of Grimsby’s heritage, will only survive through the continued support of local people, either by attending our concerts and shows, hiring the multitude of available rooms or through donations to our Restoration Fund Appeal.