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LISTEN: Victor Hugo Centre plans receive expert support

LISTEN: Victor Hugo Centre plans receive expert support

Friday 22 September 2023

LISTEN: Victor Hugo Centre plans receive expert support

Friday 22 September 2023

An Art Historian who led the £10million refurbishment of Gainsborough House has been advising those wanting to create a similar centre in Guernsey, focusing on the life and work of Victor Hugo.

Mark Bills was Director Emeritus of the Gainsborough House Museum until this summer when he finished his work there.

He had helped with the fundraising to pay for the project as well as curating the exhibitions, procuring art works, organising staff as well as much more.

"The reason why I was at Gainsborough's house was to really develop the museum to lead a major change and to take it from the kind of museum it was to the museum that it became. That was a real, real joy.

Gainsborough house

Pictured: Gainsborough House in Sudbury, Suffolk has many parallels with the plans for a Victor Hugo Centre in Guernsey.

"I'm not a peace time general if you like, I like to have a project. The project was complete - we had been open for nine months, and it's been a big success in terms of visitor numbers, in terms of getting funding as well as the kind of profile that it's got so it was seemed a good time to get off really. It's always a bit of a moving train but I was leaving it in a really good position and really good opportunities for it going forward."

Within weeks of retiring from his post at Gainsborough House Museum, Mr Bills was in Guernsey having been invited over by Larry Malcic - the Chair of the Victor Hugo Centre project.

Mr Malcic and his team want to create a centre focusing on the French great's legacy in literature, drama and art as well as his life.

Mr Bills thinks it's a great idea and one which is sure to succeed following his brief visit to the island earlier this month.

"I hope that it's been of some help, you know, it would be really nice to see the Victor Hugo Center here.

"I knew of some of the things that (Larry has) done, but I'd never met him before and he visited because (Gainsborough House) had lots of parallels with what's being planned in the Victor Hugo Center.

"It was a great pleasure to show him around and to talk to him about the project and what we've been doing and the challenges and how we overcame those challenges, and then we kept in touch."


Pictured: DLM Architects have produced plans for a Victor Hugo Centre in Guernsey.

Focusing on the planned Victor Hugo Centre, Mr Bills thinks it is a "great project" and although it won't be easy, he believes it will have a "really positive impact" on the island. 

"...that was one of the aims of the project at Gainsborough House. It had its mission about Gainsborough and stimulating people, people being able to respond to Gainsborough, but also to stimulate creativity, all those things that we wanted to do.

"But we also wanted to make sure that it would be secure financially going forward and that it would have an impact on the town because it's right in the center of a town which is around 30,000 people."

Mr Bills added: "Similarly, the idea that a writer like Victor Hugo and how he used Guernsey and was inspired, people will see the place through the eyes of the writer. And I think that and could be a real hub for cultural activity."



Victor Hugo Centre plans developing 

WATCH: Ambitious plans for Victor Hugo cultural centre unveiled

Victor Hugo Centre sets sights on mammoth fundraising effort 

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