Greig History Two

THE GREIG HALL STORY PART TWO - Bill Bayley

What a sad story the Greig Hall history is! If it were not so risible, it might even be called tragic. It began in corruption, and it looks as if it will end ignominiously in bankruptcy. Ah well, great stories often follow that course.

To begin at the beginning. Look at the main building. Does it look like a Youth Club to you? Of course it doesn’t, but that was what it was supposed to be, because that was what Hannah Susan Greig wanted, “for the Youth of Alcester”. It used to have that motto on a board outside the Greig Hall, but they took it down. I wonder why. Somebody, probably Alcester people, I don’t know who, saw the amount of money to be spent on a Youth Club, around £50,000, and said to their mates, “That’s too much money to waste on those oiks. Let’s build a dance and dining hall, and call it a youth club. The youths can use it, until they wreck it, and then we have an excuse to throw them out.” That’s why there was corruption before even the design was done. 

Why did no-one check on what was done? I have no idea. Probably because those involved were so high and mighty that they could never be corrupt. I have spoken to an Alcester man who was a teenager when the Greig Hall was opened, as a youth club. All the press were there, and bigwigs of all shapes. There was equipment galore, even a film projector. This man thought, “What a tremendous youth club this will be! One of the best in the country!”

When he returned two weeks later, there was barely any equipment at all. It had all been borrowed for the opening night, to impress the reporters and the bigwigs. Why did this man not report what had happened? He was only 14, and who would he report it to? The bigwigs were the very ones who would benefit from having a dance hall, so they weren’t going to stand up for the rights of the youth of Alcester. They didn’t deserve it.

The main building was used as a community hall, though, as well as a youth club for a bit, until they were put into a hut at the back. The place ran well enough, because money had been left by David Greig to maintain the place, even to pay for a caretaker. This money was in the form of private shares in the Greig chain, so the money only came from the dividend. But it was enough.

There were only two trustees at this time, Derek Collett and Aubrey Gwinnet. Neither was a friend of the youth of the town, but they tolerated them. Then the Greig chain was sold to Allied Suppliers, and suddenly the shares were worth money. They could be cashed, and they were, for £250,000, give or take a few thousands. Hooray, thought the two trustees, we’re rich!

It went to their heads. Actually, it went to Derek Collet’s head, because old Aubrey Gwinnet trusted him, and took little action on his own. This was the time that the Sports Hall was built, using up half the money meant to maintain the place, about £110, 000. No market research was done to see who wanted it, how much they would pay, how much it would cost to run, etc. etc. It was to be Derek Collet’s achievement. It lost money for ten years, but that wasn’t all. The aeroplane was bought then, secretly, and flown by Collet and his friends. An aeroplane club was set up, and showed films about aeroplanes on a Saturday to the kids. This fooled most people, but not all. Questions were being asked about the accounting, and things got into the papers about the aeroplane, but no facts were produced. The youth club folded for lack of County support. The County Youth Service provided nothing, because they said that the Greig was there to do it.  To be continued.