- The mission of the Royal Hall Restoration Trust
The objects and activity of the Trust have been focussed successfully since its creation on raising funds for the preservation and restoration of the Kursaal building, now largely achieved, albeit that works of a capital nature in a century old unique historic listed building can never be regarded as totally finished. There are however still projects to undertake for the preservation and restoration task to be regarded as complete as adjoining facilities and features of the original Kursaal are missing and need to be recreated if the Royal Hall is to operate satisfactorily.
Also, the Royal Hall building needs, for the public benefit, to be maintained, promoted, enhanced, modernised, and improved on a continuing basis to modern standards, if it is to be attractive and suitable for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations with increased usage.
Consequently, the Trust has decided to re-launch itself in order to raise funds and promote activity not just for further required capital projects but also to promote the increased use and enjoyment of the building.
- Capital projects
The immediate priority has the completion of a number of smaller scale projects eg brass rails, a mural commissioned for the south ambulatory, installation of stained glass in the bay windows at the front elevation.
For the longer term a number of larger scale projects and concepts have been identified and are being investigated, concept designed and costed. As time goes on there will be further projects which will be required.
The greatest single area requiring imaginative treatment to bring people into the building is the rear ambulatory and cafe/bar area, along with the associated area to the rear of the building. To contribute, at least in part, to the re-creation of the original setting of the building and replacement of long lost facilities, the Trust have been exploring with Harrogate International Centre the feasibility of the Trust acting as the facilitator for the creation and establishment of a top class restaurant project in the space between the rear of the building and the HIC exhibition halls, with a direct access from Kings Road. This concept would include linking with/perhaps incorporating the rear ambulatory and café area in such a way that independent utilisation can be achieved to serve events taking place in the Royal Hall and the Conference Centre itself.
Currently the rear ambulatory and cafe and bar areas are not usable all the year round, and it is a priority for HIC for this to be achieved with the glazing of the roof and side walls.
If the ambitious restaurant concept can be brought to fruition, there would be enhanced possibilities, such as the return of the Harrogate Brougham as a centre piece. To pursue this concept, indicative drawings and specifications and a business investment plan have been undertaken. Sketches have been prepared for the treatment of frontage area linking into Crescent Gardens, including landscaping with a water/fountain feature, and for the creation of a garden landscaped area to the north of the building, with the intention of there being a transformational new setting if/when the adjoining exhibition hall is demolished and a service access road and hard standing provided to the rear of HIC buildings. This, again, would go some way towards a re-creation of part of the setting of the original Kursaal building. Consideration can be given to the extent to which such a scheme could be implemented in phases.
It should be noted that such initiatives would conform with the HIC Master Plan concepts and proposals including the creation of a Town Square flanked by the Baths complex, the present Council Offices at Crescent Gardens, the Mercer Art Gallery, and the Royal Hall itself.
The Trust are enormously grateful to Julia Barfield and Peter Owens who have generously prepared these innovative, imaginative and exciting plans pro bono, so free of cost to the Trust.
- Promotion of continuing attractiveness and increased public use and enjoyment of the building
The concept of the original Kursaal was of course based upon a multi-purpose facility for the use, enjoyment and relaxation of visitors and residents.
With the preservation and restoration of the building largely complete, and with event use of it now steadily increasing, the Trust consider that in conjunction with HIC it should be possible and is desirable to extend future efforts onto promoting, enhancing, improving and modernising the building, so that it is as attractive, suitable and available as possible for the increased use and enjoyment of the public, both present and future generations, for specific events and generally.
At present there is clearly a significant unrealised potential which, if realised, would support the attractiveness of Harrogate as a place in which to live, work and visit. The basis of public support and the applications for capital grants was predicated on public use and enjoyment of the restored building, so the re-launch will promote increased usage in conjunction with HIC and in collaboration with others.
Projects identified to increase public access and usage
A number of projects are identified – the enhancement of the lighting in the ambulatory areas is regarded as a priority, permanent flood lighting of the frontage (a transformation when organised for the official re-opening in 2008), and much more general “stately home style public access” available when possible to arrange without interfering with auditorium events with recruitment of volunteer stewards/tour guides.
The Trust has worked with HIC in increasing the number of Open Days including a conducted tour each Open Day and these have been actively promoted to hotels and coach companies, so enhancing the spa heritage aspects of the visitor experience along with the Baths, Mercer Art Gallery, Pump Room and Valley Gardens. Conducted Tours of the building have also been increased in number and are being actively promoted. The Trust are grateful to the volunteers who have made this increased public access and enjoyment possible – the Open Day and Conducted Tours Co-ordinators and the stewards.
The Trust wish to explore further the potential for exciting/significant/different/innovative /modern attractions along with imaginative artistic activity being established to bring people into the Royal Hall building when events are not being held, the aim being for the public to enjoy a special experience and thereby bringing the building to life.
Re-launch and appeal for funds
The Trust seeks financial support for the undertaking of these and other projects and approaches – donations can be made through BT MyDonate accessed through the website or direct with gift aid able to be claimed by the Trust.