Behind the scenes with THSH Facilities and Operations

People sometimes assume that August and early September is a quiet time at Town Hall and Symphony Hall. There are no concerts, so everyone takes their holidays don’t they?

Well…not everyone.

August is the one month of the year where we can undertake some of the bigger maintenance jobs which can’t be done in between concerts. This year was no exception, with particular effort being given to the maintenance of the acoustic window blinds at Town Hall. It was a particularly big job this year, since in addition to the regular testing, the cables which support the blinds all needed replacing.

Consequently we had to bring a large amount of scaffold and move it around the room in order to reach all the blinds. So that involved a team of men to build the scaffold, a separate team of specialists to work on the blinds, all under the watchful eye of our resident engineer Alex. Then when the work was complete, in came our team of cleaners to thoroughly blitz the whole area. It’s a big job – it took two weeks this year – but it’s hopefully one that we won’t need to consider again until 2015 at least.

Back at Symphony Hall, the technical team have spent the month systematically PAT testing all our equipment. Portable Appliance Testing is a legal requirement for anything that can be connected to electrical supply by means of a plug or cable but which isn’t fixed in position. It involves a visual inspection as well as testing of the actual appliance. We have over 1500 items to be tested each year, so this responsibility is shared across the whole technical team, who fit it in between their other summer duties.

Meanwhile, the front-of-house team are busy preparing for the coming season and this means recruiting new customer service assistants (CSAs). We have a team of approximately two hundred CSAs who steward the doors to Town Hall and Symphony Hall as well as working behind the bars. Each year we lose between forty and fifty through the period, and so we take on the same number of new staff each summer to fill the gap.

The recruitment process is quite interesting. We no longer hold one-to-one interviews – it’s far more interactive than that! We invite approximately sixty applicants to a group session where they have to work as teams to complete a number of tasks based around the role. Each group is “invigilated” by a member of the THSH operations team, and obviously we try to pick the people who stand out in terms of team-working and interaction with others. It’s a fascinating process which has produced some excellent new members of staff over the past few years we have been running it.

So you see, the summer is actually quite a busy time for us all – at least we’re all ready for the new season, which started in earnest with Artsfest at the weekend. But yes, we do take a bit of holiday too!

– Nick Loveland, Director of Facilities and Operations