New CEO at Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace’s new CEO has confirmed events and exhibitions business remains a vital part of the north London’s venue programme as he embarks on an ambitious regeneration and refurbishment plan.
Chief executive Duncan Wilson OBE will oversee both the trading arm of Alexandra Palace, previously under the jurisdiction of MD Rebecca Kane, and the trust. Kane leaves Alexandra Palace on 9 March after a three-year stint to take up a position at The O2 arena.
Wilson has spent the last 10 years as CEO of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, building its public access programme and increasing annual visitors from 200,000 to more than 1m. Before that, he was CEO of the Somerset House Trust and responsible for refurbishing and transforming that venue’s public profile over four years and in time for the millennium celebrations.
Originally an archaeologist, Wilson’s resume also includes stints with National and English Heritage. He identified two key focal points in his new role: To sustain present events business including Ally Pally’s dynamic Olympic programme in 2012, and to regenerate the venue.
“A lot of the venue is currently empty – many people don’t know for instance that we have a large Victorian theatre,” he told CN. “This venue has huge potential and our task is to bring new spaces online and supplement what we have already.”
Wilson admitted his task was momentous and that many had failed in their quest to realise Alexandra Palace’s full potential.
“The difference with the approach we are taking with the board is we are building on a successful events business, which we will sustain,” he said. “We may also bring in a commercial partner to help us to grow that part of our business.
“Secondly, we are looking at a series of projects that are different in character and bringing them on-stream over a period of time. The sheer size of the work here has defeated people in the past and they’ve either run out of money or abandoned schemes for other well-known reasons. We hope to get lottery funding for the theatre, but we’ll also work to secure commercial partnerships.
“We are exploring opportunities to build a hotel here, but again, we will approach this in a measured way. We’re not handing it all over to someone else, which is an essential difference.”
Wilson hoped to make significant inroads into the venue’s redevelopment in the next two to five years.
“Other ambitious projects like refurbishing the BBC studios for public viewing may take longer depending on our ability to bring on partners,” he added.
In the interim, Alexandra Palace will use a £320,000 funding grant from English Heritage to make essential repairs to its façade.
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Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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