The Foundations of the Grimsby Central Hall
Grimsby Central Hall first opened its doors to the public in 1936 and to this day, continues to play an important role in the life of the local community.
In 2011, it celebrated its Diamond Jubilee. The building is now the oldest surviving continuous concert venue in North East Lincolnshire.
Built in the 1930’s, it 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.
Conceived by the Methodist Church as the first Central Hall built in Lincolnshire, the intention was 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.
Beginning of the musical foundation
24 hours after the official opening, Grimsby Madrigal Society delivered a well-received performance of Handel’s Solomon, and laid the musical foundation that 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 of closure..
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 home. Under the leadership of the late Roy Kemp, whom one of our halls is named after in rememberance, 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 beginnings of the trust…
Upon formation of the Central Hall 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, for more than 25 years. Local trustees voluntarily donate their time and experience aided by a dedicated small team of part-time staff and 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, and heavy rock bands Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, and Hawkwind, have all graced the stage at the venue. International jazz legends Stéphane Grappelli and Humphrey Lyttelton helped establish the Hall as a home for jazz.
The best brass bands in the country, 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.
In 2011, rock icon Ian Anderson, of Jethro Tull fame, chose the Hall as one of a limited number of venues for his UK acoustic tour, attracting fans from all over the country.
In October 2012, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first chart hit, Love Me Do, with a special concert featuring The Mersey Beatles, Liverpool’s official tribute band, endorsed by John Lennon’s sister.
Underpinning these headline performances, over the years a huge variety of grassroots entertainment by the home-grown talent in North East Lincolnshire has been enjoyed at the hall. This reflects the diversity of area; musical theatre, orchestral concerts, pantomime, choral concerts and musical sets have been part of varied programme over the years.
The Central Hall is still a an active hub of the community; 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 part of regeneration of Freeman Street, its future is bright, and looks set to re-emerge in the 21st century with a modern outlook, retaining its historic features.
When so many of the borough’s distinctive buildings have already been lost, it seems all the more crucial to preserve the few that are left.
If walls could talk, the Central Hall would tell many stories. Maintaining and improving this iconic building is a huge and expensive responsibility. In the last five years alone, we have invested more than £100000, 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. The Hall continues to get support from the Lottery Heritage Fund, which is a much needed lifeline.