To mark the launch of our 2021 awards, we spoke to Nicky Chance-Thompson DL, winner of the Yorkshire and North East Judges’ Special Award 2020, about ensuring the survival of The Piece Hall in Halifax.
Nicky Chance-Thompson describes the last year at The Piece Hall in Halifax as ‘a journey of resilience and survival’.
“It was a challenging time for all, but I couldn’t bear the thought of letting down the staff, the tenants and the people of Halifax and Calderdale that rely on The Piece Hall,” she says. “I was determined that it would re-open to support our communities after the lockdown.”
Nicky is CEO of The Piece Hall Trust and has steered the historic venue to success since it reopened in 2017, attracting millions of visitors a year and winning national and international acclaim as an exciting independent heritage, retail, food and culture destination.
She spent the weeks of lockdown lobbying and making the business case to secure The Piece Hall’s future. “I was involved in all sorts of calls about heritage and our sector which gives so much back to our country, both economically and emotionally.”
Emergency funding and £1 million from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has enabled The Piece Hall to re-open. Its shops and their owners have now started trading again, although hospitality remains largely closed and events are not yet able to take place.
As a community facility, Nicky was keen that The Piece Hall helped local people during the lockdown. She and her team worked with a local charity to provide meals to frontline workers as well as school children during the half term holiday. “Marcus Rashford congratulated us on what we were doing, which was just great,” says Nicky.
Winning the Judges’ Special Award was a ‘shock and lovely surprise’. “I know how prestigious the IoD is, so having an award of that magnitude is really special and made me feel very proud of my achievements, especially at The Piece Hall.
“Watching the awards, I could see the calibre of the people involved, and so it’s a real privilege and honour to have the award from the judges.
“The award is not only for me but for the Board and the team at The Piece Hall Trust who are hugely talented. The knock-on effect for those around you when you achieve recognition is very positive, and I would encourage other people to enter – Ive learned over time that there is nothing wrong with having your achievements and success recognised.”
A Deputy Lieutenant for West Yorkshire, Nicky has recently been appointed to head up the Tourism Recovery Task Group at Welcome to Yorkshire, which is supporting businesses and attractions to reopen, recover and rebuild from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nicky says: “We are currently forming a plan as to how we can provide support to the cultural, hospitality and retail sectors to enable them to survive into and throughout 2021.
“We want to get Yorkshire ‘match-fit’ for when we can start to return to some kind of normality again after a very difficult time for everyone.”