For the senatorial hustings meeting last month the Parish hired a meeting room in a town hotel, due to the fact that the Assembly Room at the Town Hall only holds 250 people, seated, with 50 permitted to stand, making a total of 300 out of a population of more than 100 times that number. Nor was there sufficient space on the dais for the 13 candidates plus chairman, nor sufficient microphones - nor sufficient air! If you have attended a packed public meeting at the Town Hall you will know how stuffy it gets. When the building was acquired in the 19th century, as fire station, police station as well as parish offices, meeting space wasn't a problem as the only people entitled to vote in parish meetings were 'principals', those paying over a certain amount in rates; before that, parish meetings had taken place in town hotels (Plus ca change ...) while elections involved a show of hands in the Town Church prior to the introduction of the secret ballot.
Of course we will never be able to find a suitable space in which to accommodate the thousands of parishioners who could turn up to Parish Assembly, and critics of this proposal will point out that most of our assemblies are only supported by a handful of parishioners. It is also possible for us to make use of referendums on important parish issues in future. Even so, I think it is time that St Helier started looking for a meeting room with a more realistic capacity than the Assembly Room. Two of our twin towns have such facilities, the Kursaal in Bad Wurzach and La Salle Polyvalente in Avranches: both are modern, large enough to accommodate up to 1,000 people, and they also are in much demand for concerts, conferences, presentations, dinners and the like.
I'm not for a minute suggesting that the Assembly Room has had its day. We are making increasing use of our elegant room, with lots of commercial hirings as well as numerous community events, concerts, dances, dinners and so on, with potential to to put it on the town's cultural tourism trail so that more people can enjoy the parish's collection of paintings. But when it comes to holding a large gathering of parishioners, there is only really Fort Regent whose future is still uncertain, and which isn't under the Parish of St Helier's control in any case.