No-one knows the backstage secrets of the Christchurch Town Hall like Andy Granger.
He worked at the city’s landmark venue for most of his 41-year career, starting there in 1975 as a young maintenance engineer and eventually moving up to Facilities Manager for the Town Hall and Horncastle Arena.
One of his first major jobs was helping to install the 2.6 tonne timber and steel acoustic “donut” that was suspended above the auditorium stage in 1977.
Now, he has rounded out his career by giving the order to lower the massive structure from the roof down to the floor so it can be restored and upgraded in preparation for being reinstalled in the refurbished theatre.
The "donut" was the last major heritage item taken out of the building as part of the $127.5 million repair and restoration project that began in June 2015. The important step was watched on Friday by the Town Hall’s original architects, Sir Miles Warren and Maurice Mahoney, before they were given a tour of the site.
Being part of the removal of this significant piece of heritage meant a lot to Mr Granger. “The Town Hall has been a big part of my life. I always felt part of the place and I just love the building, the feel of it and the atmosphere.”
He is familiar with every aspect of the building, including the secret service tunnel that ran underneath the theatres. He remembers one night escorting singer Sharon O’Neil through it so she could avoid being mobbed by fans gathered in the foyer above.
Mr Granger met many visiting stars at the Town Hall over the years, including Joe Cocker and Sir Cliff Richard, who shook his hand backstage.
After the earthquakes he spent a lot of time in the building removing equipment and heritage items, and archiving photos and books so they could be preserved. He always hoped the centre would be repaired and is happy the decision was made to restore it to its former glory.
The three-year project to strengthen the Town Hall to 100 per cent of the New Building Standard and significantly refurbish its interior is being carried out by Hawkins and will reach the half-way mark in December. Already, 170,000 man hours have been chalked up on the site.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the competition to decide who would design Christchurch’s new Town Hall began in 1966, 50 years ago. Local firm Warren and Mahoney were chosen and they created a building that had become the city’s “living room” and a big part of its civic life. Many residents had fond memories of graduation ceremonies and concerts they'd seen there.
When the building re-opened in mid-2018 she predicted crowds would come through the doors and say, “’What a fantastic job has been done’”.
Mr Granger says he always felt lucky to work in such a beautiful place. “It’s never been a simple job but it’s been really interesting. The problems that came along, you had to find solutions to them because the show must go on, and it always did.”