PARR Hall will be celebrating its 125th birthday on Saturday – but it will be behind closed doors.

The historic concert hall currently remains shut as coronavirus restrictions tighten around Warrington.

So we spoke to manager Chris Persoglio about what it is like to mark the anniversary in such strange times and the ongoing challenges faced by the events industry.

The former Woolston High student said: “We had Jimmy Carr due to perform two shows on the anniversary night.

“It’s awful. It’s such a shame that a milestone year has fell during this period.”

Parr Hall originally closed for two weeks when the national lockdown was announced – reflective of how the pandemic took many people by surprise.

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Chris added: “It became apparent during that period that there wasn’t going to be an easy fix.

“It was quite tricky because at the start of it we had shows still taking place and we could see the pace at which the coronavirus measures were moving.

“When we eventually closed and the team went to work from home the hardest thing was rescheduling all the shows very quickly and letting all the customers know as soon as we could.

“It was so difficult to plan anything. We were thinking: ‘Do you reschedule for in two months? Six months? Two years?’ Some of this was dictated by the promoters because they were having to reorganise whole tours.

“A lot of expense goes into that such as accommodation, production vehicles, tour manager and crew and equipment hire as well as artist fees.

“So when you’re moving a whole tour if you can only get a handful of venues in that period it’s just not worth financially doing it so it could be rescheduled for a year or 18 months later.

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“With a few of the events, we’ve ended up having to reschedule them twice.”

There are about 50 employees at Culture Warrington – the charity that runs Parr Hall, Pyramid and Warrington Museum and Art Gallery – and Chris was one of only three team members who continued to work full time.

The Latchford resident said: “The other big thing was our buildings still needed to be looked after. We had to ensure they were safe, secure and maintained throughout the whole period.

“It’s been difficult but we’ve had a small core team who have worked really well. That’s also been true of the events industry as a whole. We’ve all been supporting each other in trying to work out what we can and can’t do.

“About 90 per cent of our team was furloughed and we’re gradually bringing them back now.”

More recently, Parr Hall has been hit by the tighter coronavirus restrictions in Warrington. The plan was to reopen the venue on Saturday, October 3, with a reduced capacity Comedy Store night.

But on Wednesday it was announced it was cancelled due to the new rules such as the curfew and households being advised not to mix.

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Chris added: “It’s frustrating as we know the customers really want to see things back on stage again. It’s been so difficult.

“With social distancing, it’s just not financially viable to do a lot of our events with a quarter or a third of the normal capacity.”

But in a way, the 125th birthday means more to Chris and the team because of the current climate.

It is a reminder, when one is needed more than ever, how much Parr Hall has meant to generations of Warringtonians.

The 45-year-old said: “What we’ve tried to do is reflect back on the last 125 years rather than concentrate on the day itself.

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“It’s celebrating all the events that Parr Hall has held. We’ve seen a lot of things coming through on social media as we’ve been asking people to share their memories, images and ticket stubs.

“I’m always amazed by the amount of people who come to the Parr Hall and ask to look around. A lot of couples have met here at the dances or at a concert.

“Sometimes you don’t realise how many memories have been created from people who met there 50 years ago to people seeing their first pantomime.

“I was saying to the team the other day you always remember your first show.”

Over the years, Chris worked on and off at Parr Hall in between work on festivals and at Liverpool Academy.

He then took over as manager in late 2006.

Chris added: “Damon Albarn’s The Good, The Bad and The Queen was one of the first bands we got in.

“I remember after the gig we were packing everything away and Damon was hanging around and he had a go on the Cavaillé-Coll Organ we have at the back. That was early 2007 and then we had Arctic Monkeys shortly after that.”

But his absolute favourite Parr Hall moments have been Stone Roses’ reunion gig and meeting his idol Cozy Powell.

Chris said: “Stone Roses has to be one of them just because of the excitement around it and whole lead-up to it.

“We had the band rehearsing at the venue all week and worked with Shane Meadows on it. That was the gig with the biggest buzz around it.

“My first concert was Whitesnake when I was six which was at Deeside Leisure Centre.

“Their drummer was this amazing musician called Cozy Powell. Watching him inspired me to start playing drums and then many years back we had Peter Green, who used to be in Fleetwood Mac, play the Parr Hall with Cozy Powell on drums.

“So that was amazing. I helped Cozy get his drum kit set up and chatted to him about how he was the first person I saw perform live.”