Manchester Town Hall closed for six years on Monday ahead of its £328m redevelopment – but what do Mancunians and visitors think of the news?
The 140-year-old building is now in the hands of the Our Town Hall project team, who aim to restore the neo-gothic hall to its former glory and reduce its carbon footprint with a finish-line target of 2024.
MM spoke to Albert Square visitors to ask if they knew about the closure and if they think it is worth the time or money.
Did you know Manchester Town hall was closing?
Only 43% of people interviewed actually knew that the town hall was closing, pointing to a lack of publicity of the event, which may leave many visitors disappointed.
Is it worth spending £328m on the town hall?
Only one third of people believed spending £328m on the town hall was worth it, with many pointing towards Manchester’s homelessness issue as a more important cause.
Two tourists from Dublin, Klade Baker, 21, and Grace Collins, 21, were visiting the city and Grace observed: “We’ve been walking round and we’ve seen a lot of homelessness, so I think that’s a bit much to be honest.”
Klade added: “History and heritage is important, but you should deal with the now.”
Pippa Laidlaw, a 21-year-old trainee medic, saw another national issue that could benefit from the funds, saying: “£328m, what a waste! That could be going towards the NHS.”
However, some still value the historical and symbolic reasons for investing heavily in the redevelopment of the hall that first opened in 1877.
Leena Martin, 31, is a regular visitor to Albert Square and professed: “This is actually my favourite part of Manchester city centre in terms of the history and how much I enjoy going inside when it is open.
“It’s very, very expensive. I didn’t realise it would be that much, but in terms of keeping the history and keeping one of the nicest areas of Manchester looking nice, it’s worth it, I suppose, in the long run.”
John Pengelly, 62, brushed off the cost element too, simply stating: “It costs what it costs, either that or it falls down, and then what are you going to do?”
Is six years too long for the town hall to close?
Of the people interviewed, 77% believed six years was too long for the town hall to be closed, although many were not aware of the amount of work needed.
Nigel Johnson, 50, expressed his dismay at the time frame, but also his confusion regarding the project, saying: “That’s a very long time! I thought they would have at least tried to do it in sections.
“In saying that, I’m not too sure why they are doing the refurbishments, is there a problem?”
The building’s closure even disappointed some tourists on the first day, with 20-year-old Norwegian, Rasmus Thomasen, explaining: “It would have been nice to go inside.”
Klade Barker also expressed his dissatisfaction at two of Manchester’s famous sites being under construction.
“We went to the Cathedral and that’s covered in scaffolding, so at least this is okay for a photo.”
Those backing the decision to close the town hall until 2024 appeared to understand the complexity of the refurbishment and the long-term benefits.
Kiah Singleton, 19, pointed to the future of the building to justify its closure, explaining: “Six years is hardly anything compared the years it will be used for after it opens and the money it’ll bring to Manchester.”
Reporting by Adam Wareing, Jacob Bentley-York, Olivia Burke, Lauren Dent, Kieran Isgin and Luke Madeira