There was a, a job advertised for the Centre Manager of, of the then, er, Swan Centre. Erm… and I applied for that job, erm… and was lucky enough to get it. Erm, I’d got a background in, property management from the old Bullring Centre when I used to manage the office blocks associated with the Bullring, which not many people realise there were four office blocks associated with it. Erm, so that was my, my first taste of, er, property management. And then this position came up and I applied for it and, erm… and took it. Erm, that was when, in the days of the old Swan Centre when it was, erm, a typical sixties angular concrete construction which, at the time of construction was the bees knees, er… but obviously over, over the years it, er, is, it sort of became known with that… horrible industrial type building of, of that era. Er, so. And it was… w, even when I joined the, the centre was due for, erm, a major refurbishment, if not demolition and re, redevelopment. It, it really was that old. It, it was a, a great local centre for the people that used it, it was very popular, erm, it was a navigation aid as well. Everyone said, ‘Get to the Swan Centre and you, you either go
north, south, east or west from there.
I did… er, yu, er, occasionally, just to ensure that the, er, erm, security, integrity of the site was as it should be, to make sure no health and safety issues. So, erm, I would walk round occasionally, erm. You know, d, strange… strange atmosphere, it was a bit of, er… rather surreal, obviously, a bit of a ghost town feel to it with, with nobody there, only the people I could imagine walking, walking past me. Erm… but yeah, but other things to occupy me so, erm… yeah. It was… it wasn’t with, with an air of sadness, it was more, erm… an air of expectation of what was coming rather than what we’d lost.
Yes, in so far as the… the new centre attracts people from much further afield now. Erm… We know from our… our demographic, erm, information that we, we’re getting people coming from Walsall, from Sutton Coldfield… er, Wolverhampton, Coventry, er, Solihull, areas like that. Erm, and they’re driving to the centre. Erm, whereas before it, it was very much a local centre, people would drive to it but it would tend to be people that had known the area and it was… it was as much a, a nostalgia trip as anything to, to come back to the old centre and, and see how it was doing. Erm, so yeah, the, the change in, in customers was, has been, er, quite marked. Obviously more people with cars, er, travelling a, a little further, erm… that tended to be slightly more affluent, er, groups as well. Er… so, yeah, it’s changed in that respect, erm… but it still caters and it’s still very much a local centre. We, we still have interaction with, with local community groups, local school, er, local choirs and we try and be as communal as possible in that respect. Erm, we, we encourage a lot of, erm, er, charitable causes and other good causes to come and promote themselves as well as part of the, community and wider community.
The opening was a soft opening in effect. So, erm, there was some local press about when it was happening, erm, again most of the, the groups in the area, the community groups, had been involved all through so they, they knew what was happening – the local police, fire brigade, erm, local schools, er, and other groups such as that. Erm, so in fairness we didn’t really need to, erm… to publicise the opening that much and that, that was founded as well that we didn’t need to because on opening day the, the crowds outside were, were phenomenal, really were.