I’m David Lockwood. I’m the new Director of Trowbridge Town Hall. And I need your help.
As you’ll likely know, Trowbridge Town Hall has proudly stood in the centre of the town since 1887. It’s survived two world wars, two Diamond Jubilees and The Who performing in the Great Hall. It’s been transformed into a Magistrates Court and then, a few years ago, reverted back to public use.
But what is that public use? For the last five years, it’s developed, presented and commissioned professional art from across the county and beyond. It’s currently a home to countless artists, hosts a boutique shop and intimate art gallery. Hundreds of people use its spaces each week for classes and meetings. Beneath the ground floor, the cells are used as residency space for those who aren’t afraid of ghosts.
It’s my hunch that we can be doing even more. I’m taken by the engraving on the front wall which declares the building “for the benefit of the inhabitants of this town for ever”. It’s that act of civic generosity from businessman and philanthropist William Roger Brown that I believe is embedded in the building’s purpose, now as much as then. (Since writing this, I’ve been told Brown placed a levy on his employees to fund the building, so perhaps not quite as publicly-spirited after all. Still, the point stands, I suppose – a building for the public, paid for by the public).
There are two ways to approach creating activity that is to the benefit of the inhabitants of the town. One is to make judgements, based on understanding of the tastes of residents, of gaps in provision and of personal contacts. The other is to ask people what they want. Both are valid, but for an incomer like me, you need to start with the latter.
Which is why I need your help. I’ve been empowered by the trustees of Trowbridge Town Hall to lead the organisation. I’ve a number of ideas of my own, but what I really want is to hear from you – from the inhabitants of the town. I want to know what activity you want to see in the building, what you want to use it for. It’ll be our job to facilitate this activity, so long as it fits into the purpose intended by the building’s founders and we can afford it (or fundraise for it).
We live in fascinating times. Across the world, there are great changes in technology which are impacting the ways in which societies operate. A similar social and cultural revolution swept the industrial world in the nineteenth century, leading to the creation of buildings like ours in towns and cities across Britain. Now, we have the chance to play a role in these changes, a chance to use our shared public spaces to imagine the world we want to live in. Trowbridge Town Hall could play a vital role in this. I’d like to invite you to help us realise this potential.
We’re holding a public meeting at the Town Hall on Wednesday 10th April at 7pm. All are welcome. It’d be lovely to hear your thoughts, ideas, frustrations and hopes. So, if you can, please join us. I look forward to meeting you.