08 June 2022
The man who put Alnwick Castle on the map as Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is taking over the reins as Executive Director at GO! Southampton, the city’s business improvement district.
Stephen Manion was the manager at the iconic castle in Northumberland when Hollywood came knocking more than 20 years ago.
“It was a career defining moment without doubt,” reflects Stephen, who arrives in Southampton directly from another famous castle just down the road at Arundel.
“Negotiating with Warner Bros was an incredible experience – what impressed me as much as anything was that they were most concerned that the experience of filming such a big movie would have a positive impact on our local community, which I liked.”
An added bonus of the Harry Potter years was that one of his two sons, Chris, then 10, was cast as an extra in the first film!
Stephen has spent the majority of his career transforming heritage locations into popular attractions. Before joining Arundel Castle four years ago, he spent eight years as a consultant working with, among other destinations, Woburn Abbey, the Canal and River Trust and Drumlanrig Castle in south west Scotland.
He is looking forward to making sure Southampton continues its upward trajectory following being a finalist in the bid to become UK City of Culture 2025.
Stephen explained: “The process of entering the UK City of Culture competition has been tremendous for Southampton and it’s given a huge boost to the city’s profile and highlighted the value in the city’s leaders and stakeholders collaborating for the greater good.”
“GO! Southampton represents over 630 levy payers made up of business representatives from a range of sectors across the city and has a host of responsibilities but one of the main roles is to create an environment where our members can thrive. The city centre must be safe, clean and a great place in which to do business. We also have a duty to attract footfall into the centre and that’s where, I believe, my experience in destination marketing will come in useful.”
Tim Keeping, Chair of GO! Southampton said: “Stephen brings with him vast experience and is a very able successor to Giles Semper, who led the team which secured an emphatic ‘Yes’ vote in November 2021, giving GO! Southampton a strong mandate for another five year term. Stephen’s credentials are second to none and we all look forward to working with him.”