Andover Guild Hall is an important part of my life – many key events take place within its walls. During the General Election campaign, that is where the hustings are held, enabling the local electorate to do some political window shopping before making their fateful decision on Election Day. It is where the Parade assembles on Remembrance Day; where markets are held, public meetings take place and quality entertainment and refreshment is often provided. At the heart of Andover, it is possibly a building we take for granted.
In the last ten days, I have made two visits to the Guild Hall, one which looked back; and the other looking forward.
Many congratulations to Jane Benson and her team on organising the commemoration of the Trafalgar Despatch – photographs of which appeared in last week’s paper. The Guild Hall was a marvellous backdrop for the event, with the arrival of the post-chaise, the re-enactment of the challenging work of the Press Gang, the contemporary songs from the Loft Singers, and some very sedate non-contact dances – with flavour provided by the aroma of a hog roast.
The second visit was looking forward – a display in the Upper Guild Hall of the proposed Asda supermarket and Curzon Cinema.
I was surprised to learn that Andover needs another supermarket but, as a Conservative, I am all in favour of competition and choice. I hope Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda vie with each other to offer my constituents nutrititous and competitively-priced food, undercutting each other by the hour and falling over to pack up our purchases and carry them to the car.
I was told that some 20% of all food purchases by Andover residents are currently made outside Andover, indicating unsatiated demand for more local food outlets.
Half the floorspace in the supermarket will be for non-food – and I hope this space will be devoted to selling products that are not already available elsewhere in Andover, rather than replicating what we can already buy.
But what I was really interested in was the four-screen cinema – and I was told I couldn’t have the cinema without the supermarket.
I have only five requirements of a cinema. First, that a gentleman with long legs can sit in comfort in its seats, without either hugging his knees or importuning his neighbour.
Second, that the machine that disgorges my pre-booked ticket in the foyer recognises my credit card; third, that it shows films I want to see; fourth, that it sells silent popcorn and finally, when I leave the cinema – amused, frightened or crying - that my car is where I left it, unclamped and unmolested.