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Victor Hugo Centre sets sights on mammoth fundraising effort

Victor Hugo Centre sets sights on mammoth fundraising effort

Tuesday 18 April 2023

Victor Hugo Centre sets sights on mammoth fundraising effort

Tuesday 18 April 2023


Ambitious plans to establish a state-of-the-art attraction celebrating Victor Hugo and Guernsey will soon finalise, with the directors now seeking millions in support from the private sector.

Larry Malcic, Chair of the Victor Hugo Centre Guernsey LBG, said the project is “admittedly very ambitious”, and is “going to take time with a lot of support required” as he estimated a capital cost of £7m to create the immersive exhibition.

He told a Chamber of Commerce lunch how important these projects are to the communities they are located in, bringing “long-term generational value”. 

But the clock is ticking, with a two-year fundraising timeframe set. £100,000 of seed funding has been raised, and negotiations are ongoing with the States to secure a long-term lease for the former States Offices on the North Esplanade. It’s hoped a final agreement can be reached before the end of the year. 

The States agreed in principle for the Tourist Information Building to be used for the Centre, provided the project secures private funding.

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Pictured: The plans feature modern and interactive exhibits.

Mr Malcic has an impressive background as a London-based architect for over two decades. Amongst other things, he has contributed to the design of the Churchill Museum and the Cabinet War Rooms, The British Museum, and the Natural History Museum.  

The hope with the Victor Hugo Centre is to enhance the islands’ tourism and educational offering by cementing the legacy of Hugo in a dedicated space alongside archive and research facilities. 

The centrepiece, unveiled yesterday, is for a large physical model of Guernsey populated with interactive pieces of significance to Hugo’s residence. It would be surrounded by screens displaying both a serene and stormy sea and thematic artworks.

Several smaller galleries would take visitors on a multi-media journey of the man, the island, and his legacy. Mr Malcic hopes those who experience it will be encouraged to “go out and see the real places” that inspired the work. A 50-60 seat exhibition spaces would also pave the way for special talks and performances. 

It would also extend the Hugo-based offering beyond what is currently available. 

Hauteville House only opens to visitors in the peak season, requires a tour guide, can only welcome in a set amount of people per tour, and can be inaccessible to some.

“We can do so much more to celebrate Guernsey and it's most famous resident,” Mr Malcic said. 

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Pictured: Branding has already been drawn up the Centre.

“A month’s work here is worth a year in Paris” 

As well as the arts and history, the charity hopes the Centre will serve as a bastion for the values held by Hugo through the study centre, which Mr Malcic said “remain such important topics in the world today”, including freedom of expression, the sanctity of the individual, universal education, and the abolishment of capital punishment. 

Conversations with international institutions have begun including universities, museums and other centers which celebrate Victor Hugo, including one in Havana, Cuba, to possibly secure long-term loans for artefacts. If fruitful, the Centre could form part of a network of complementary organisations focused on the arts and social advocacy.  

Mr Malcic also noted the enduring international appeal of Hugo’s work such as sell-out performances of Les Miserables, and the fact that the number one musical currently showing in South Korea is The Man Who Laughs. 

Expressions of support for the Centre have been received by local organisations such as the Literary Festival, Music Service, poetry competition and the Victor Hugo Society. 

Casson Mann, internationally recognised exhibition designers, are working with DLM Architects to bring the building into a full and proper use. 

Mr Malcic made a plea for help at the end of his talk, asking prospective financiers to make a “confident investment in Guernsey’s future”. 

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