SPOTLIGHT ON FELDMAN’S ARCADE BLACKPOOL
Blackpool Promenade Illuminations circa 1950’s showing Feldman’s Arcade and its distinctive roof line pediment which bears the name of its original owner.
This is a belated update and brief résumé on my endeavours during 2015 & 2016 to upgrade the heritage status of Feldman’s Arcade in Blackpool to a ‘listed building’ which would have assisted in the preservation of this building which has both historical & cultural significance as a song demonstration arcade between WW1 & WW2.
In my application to Historic England (17th December 2015) I presented my reasons for consideration of listed building status as follows.
“Feldman’s Arcade (now occupied by Yates’s) was built in 1923 for Bert Feldman a famous London Music Publisher & Impresario and was part of his music and entertainment business in Blackpool which included Feldman’s Theatre (now demolished) plus numerous song booths on ‘The Golden Mile’ and shows on Central Pier. The Arcade was designed as a multiple retail outlet selling sheet music with song demonstrations and kiosks which were sublet to quality retailers including jewellers and a photography studio. The upper floors housed The Arcade Café which also held music recitals and entertainment. During the 1950’s it became a ladies fashion arcade and in the 60’s & 70’s under the ownership of Israelite Marks the arcade evolved into ‘Diana Warren’ a high fashion label outlet frequented by stars of stage & screen. In more recent years this building has been used as a night club/bar (and altered internally) but it’s early history has been forgotten and been misinterpreted by so many historical commentators. Feldman’s Arcade is the last musical monument not only to it’s namesake but to an era of ‘live music’ and song demonstrations which made Blackpool the main stamping ground for new songs in the U.K. between the wars.”
Some further comments I made to Historic England in support of my application.
“Feldman’s Arcade is on Blackpool’s Local List produced by the Council in consultation with the Civic Trust as confirmed to me by Joan Humble chairman of the Civic Trust in 2014.To the best of my knowledge the building has not been previously assessed for designation. It must be said whilst the building appears not to be under any immediate threat from further alterations, the upper front elevations are showing obvious signs of neglect with the loss of the original window mullions plus rust staining and missing sections of faience. One can only hope that the owners (Green Apple Ltd) & occupiers (Yates’s) will address these issues and maintain these last surviving original external features, especially with the loss internal arcade area which has been substantially altered into a night club bar.”
I enclosed the above photo (which I took in December 2015) of the arcade’s front elevation as proof of the building’s continuing deterioration and lack of maintenance. The fabric of the building would certainly appear to be under threat with missing faience and rusting window lintels supported by acrow style props.
Historic England declined to consider Feldman’s Arcade for listed building status in March 2016 as it did not comply with their main criteria that it was ‘under serious threat of demolition’ and as the building was altered internally into a Pub/Club from an Arcade in 1996 the original internal building features were no longer there to preserve.
Further to my application Historic England stated “more evidence is needed on the national importance of Feldman’s Arcade as a music venue and its association with leading figures in the music industry.
A 1925 photograph showing Feldman’s Arcade and one of Lawrence Wrights’ (Horatio Nicholls) music outlets. Both locations are worthy of heritage plaques. The arcade was possibly designed by architect Halstead Best who designed a number of prestigious buildings in Blackpool.
I also tried to arouse some interest in the Arcade with PRS (The Performing Right Society) and asked them if they would consider expanding their Blue Plaque scheme to possibly include other music pioneers from much earlier times who were responsible for the foundation of the British music business, namely Bert Feldman music publisher and impresario, with my main quest to gain recognition for Feldman’s Arcade in Blackpool.
Here is an extract from one of my letters to PRS outlining my suggestion further.
“A PRS ‘first’ or ‘birth’ to qualify for your blue plaque criteria could be based upon “First British Song Plugger”, “First Music Publisher To Pioneer Ragtime Music In The UK”, “Feldman’s Arcade First Purpose Built Song Promotion Arcade” These pointers may hopefully assist you in consideration for a PRS Heritage award/plaque. This Bert Feldman Timeline may give you some further perspective on the subject.”
Bert Feldman Music Publisher Timeline
- 1874 Bertram Feldman born in Hull and worked for his father who was a musical instrument retailer.
- 1895 Feldman arrives in London setting up his music publishing business with a starting capital of just five pounds.
- 1907 Feldman was the first British Music Publisher to visit Tin Pan Alley in New York and was responsible for importing the concept of song plugging into the U.K.
- 1910 Feldman starts to pioneer American Ragtime music in Britain sub-publishing a number of Irving Berlin songs and others in that genre, the most famous being “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”.
- 1912 Feldman publishes “It’s A Long Long Way To Tipperary” originally an Irish ballad which Feldman arranged as a marching song which was to become a multi million seller and the most popular song during WW1. During that same year Feldman was the only music publisher to use his own image on ‘B.Feldman & Co’ mechanical copyright stamps.
- 1922 Feldman publishes his weekly song promotion sheet “Feldmanism” which was also included in ‘The Era’ the national theatrical & entertainment newspaper.
- 1924 ‘Feldman’s Arcade’ opens in Blackpool as the premier indoor song plugging venue in the resort.
- 1928 Feldman leases the ‘Borough Theatre’ in Blackpool re naming it as “Feldman’s Theatre” to operate it in conjunction with his Central Pier variety shows and his song booths.
- 1932 Feldman updates & publishes “The Teddy Bears Picnic” a John Walter Bratton melody with lyrics added by Feldman’s ‘in house’ songwriter & lyricist Jimmy Kennedy.
- 1945 Bert Feldman dies in Blackpool “Feldman’s music publishers continued to be ‘movers & shakers’ in the music industry long after the death of it’s founder and under the management of Ben Nesbit and Ronnie Beck they became a burgeoning force publishing and promoting iconic songwriters and top bands of the 60s & 70s which included The Searchers, The Yardbirds, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple amongst many other ground breaking bands which included Queen who were signed by Ronnie Beck to Feldman’s expansive song portfolio in the early 70s. Brian May acknowledges a great debt of gratitude to Feldmans as being key to the success of Queen. Feldmans was absorbed into EMI music in 1972. Ronnie Beck was one of first A&R managers to check out The Jon Evan Smash (Jethro Tull) in Blackpool in 1967 recommending them to record producer Derek Lawrence. Ellis Rich former chairman of PRS also ‘learnt his trade’ in his early days at Feldmans.
I also had a number of ‘follow up’ phone conversations with PRS in recent times without any real success and have to concede I may have been a little over zealous with my enthusiasm, but musical heritage which is at the top of my list of interests probably isn’t of great interest to the average person. The indifference of those who really owe so much to these early music pioneers cannot detract from the success of Bert Feldman which is inextricably connected to the popularity of his songs and his song promotions in Blackpool. Ironically Feldman’s strap line from his ‘Feldmanism’ song plugger sheet reads “Feldmanism Oils the Wheels of Progress”! Progress is of course the motto of Blackpool….I wonder what will oil the ‘wheels of progress’ in the future?