In 2004 Experience Consulting Limited was commissioned to undertake an audience development plan. This involved visiting Stoke-on-Trent and looking into suitable potential uses for the building that would generate sufficient income to ensure a viable future for it. The consultants contacted local bodies and user groups in order to explore fully the potential future for the building.
The consultants understood the need for the largely original and impressive interior to remain unaltered once the building was restored. The challenge was to identify suitable uses for the building that would not require undesirable alteration to the interior.
The report identified a need for a medium-sized venue in the area that could be flexible enough to host different events at different times, cope with audiences of between 100 and 1,000, and provide all necessary ancillary facilities.
The building has a number of significant factors in its favour for use as a multi-functional venue
- its city centre location
- proximity to rail/bus links and car parking
- being adjacent to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, which attracts over 150,000 visitors a year
- the grandeur of its own purpose-built auditorium
- the huge groundswell of support from the local authority, local community, elected politicians and news media.
With these positive factors, a vast range of uses emerged, which included:
- a concert hall for medium-sized events for audiences of less than 600 people – there was apparently considerable interest in possible use for brass band concerts
- choral music
- a music school, especially with youth involvement
- a workshop space for drama, music and other performing arts
- public meetings and lectures
- public ceremonies
- a distinctive and unusual venue for business AGMs/meetings/conferences
- Methodist Conference
Moreover, some of the smaller spaces in the building could be adapted for use as a Citizens Advice Bureau, Methodist bookshop, coffee shop or information shop.