An ambitious refurbishment project backed by Swindon Borough Council is proving to be a real success, as corporate hospitality bookings at Steam, Museum of the Great Western Railway – which opened in 2000 – reach their highest levels ever.
Originally the old ‘20 Shop’ of Swindon Works and part of the Grade II listed building, the Great Western Hall is now completely refurbished and contributing to reducing museum running costs.
Swindon councillor Nick Martin, who was charged with sorting out the museum’s drain on council tax payers, said, “six years ago Steam was costing the taxpayer about £850,000 a year. The council funded a £300,000 spend-to-save scheme to fully equip the conference suite and eliminate the need to rent overheads. We now have a state of the art facility which has already paid back over 40 per cent of the spend-to-save investment, and this year the total subsidy has been reduced to £500,000.”
Alan Greer, general manager at Steam added, “we are thrilled with the redevelopment of the hall. It has an increased capacity for 750 guests, and combined with high specification audio, visual and lighting equipment, it is perfect for high profile events – from weddings, exhibitions and hobby shows to AGMs and other large corporate gatherings.
“We have had bookings from blue-chip companies and national organisations, as well as many large council conferences which previously were held in commercial venues in the town.
“The feedback about our event management, customer service and the wonderful setting that Steam provides is all very positive.”
More widely the museum’s visitor numbers have increased by 25 per cent over the last three years, with a busy programme of family-friendly events and educational opportunities for school groups. Attendance at the Lego show in September was more than double that of 2007.
Alan Greer said, “Steam has certainly had its challenges over the years but, thanks to the vision of Swindon councillors and the enthusiasm, knowledge and dedication of museum staff and volunteers, the museum has become a firmly established premier visitor attraction in the South West.”
To hire the Great Western Hall call Ian Surtees on 466637 or mail: firstname.lastname@example.org