Category Archives: Blackpool Businesses

Fun looks set to end as Blackpool’s famous joke shop faces demolition

Home | Blackpool Gazette

An iconic seaside business looks set to face closure after being told it must move to make way for the £300m Blackpool Central scheme.

Drummers House of Jokes on Central Drive, known to thousands of holidaymakers for its eye-catching murals of horror film characters Chucky and Pennywise, faces an uncertain future after the council said it will be compulsory purchasing the site.

The shop has sold jokes and costumes to countless visitors and locals for the past 51 years, but now the family that runs it say they will struggle to make it work elsewhere in the town.

The business was founded by Asa Heron, who had a flower and Nottingham Lace shop on part of the site in 1969.

Drummers House of Jokes on Central Drive is under threat of closure.  Pictured are sisters Adeline Langton and Samantha Harper.Drummers House of Jokes on Central Drive is under threat of closure. Pictured are sisters Adeline Langton and Samantha Harper.

A second shop became available after a bookmakers closed down and he expanded his businesses, launching the joke shop in 1970.

His daughter Samantha Harper, who runs the shop with sister Adaline Langton and her children Jamie and Bobby, said: “This is the perfect location for a joke shop and we get so many visitors.

“We get parents coming with their children in for stink bombs and things, who came here when they were children.

“The council has said the building will be compulsory purchased but we don’t know when. We are living in limbo.
Adeline Langton, pictured and her sister Samantha are the daughters of the business' founder Asa HeronAdeline Langton, pictured and her sister Samantha are the daughters of the business’ founder Asa Heron

“We looked into moving across the car park to a new location there but the rent and rates are so high – over £38,000. We don’t think it will be viable.

“Don’t get me wrong, Blackpool needs regenerating massively but it will be at the cost of our shop being knocked down.

“It has gone to compulsory purchase but what they are offering us is not worth it.

“They have not offered premises anywhere else but we have looked. However you can’t really replicate what we have here now. It is looking like the end of an era unfortunately.

Asa Heron, also known as Drummer, who founded Drummers House of JokesAsa Heron, also known as Drummer, who founded Drummers House of Jokes

“We have survived Covid, we have survived the recession, we have survived the internet, but none of that seems to matter to the council.

“I know there’s no sentiment in business but it is sad that it has to come to an end like this.”

Samantha said the family had been waiting since 2017 for firm details of the Blackpool Central development but were still in limbo.

“ There was a council meeting the other night and one of the councillors said that retail was dead in Blackpool, which really annoyed us,” she said.

The shop is well known for its horror film style artworkThe shop is well known for its horror film style artwork

“They have been testing the ground on the main car park for foundations so they are getting ready.

“We know the multi-storey car park will be the first to be built. Whether anything else does remains to be seen but we lived through the casino plans 15 years ago – all that hype – and that is why we haven’t been holding our breath until now.

“We have been doing this for 50 years and one minute you think it would be time for a change, but then it would be such a shame to end the family business like this and we feel gutted.

“We are too young to retire. What are we supposed to do?”

She said customers’ favourites were the traditional joke shop items and said people loved going in just browsing.

She said: “It has to be the stink bombs, the fake dog poos, all the things that people remember from their school days. We have little lads being brought in by their dads who used to buy them. It takes them back to their youth.

The joke shop is a family business. Pictured are Adeline Langton, Bobbie Langton, Leigh Langton, Janie Langton and Samantha Harper.The joke shop is a family business. Pictured are Adeline Langton, Bobbie Langton, Leigh Langton, Janie Langton and Samantha Harper.

“Also popular are the fancy dress, hats and wigs, with people getting dressed up for their stag and hen dos,

“There is also now a big interest in BB guns and sports air rifles for shooting ranges from dads and lads.

“We are mainly a boys shop – big boys and little ones.”

The building features artwork from Fylde coast artist Christian Fenn, also known as Seca One, who created the Chucky mural and also Karl Tsang, a graffiti pro, who did the jokeshop whoopee cushion imagery.

Samantha said: “Dad died eight years ago and my sister and I have been running Drummers ever since.

“Dad’s nickname at the time was Drummer, so that’s why the shop has its name.

“In 1987, Dad bought the lease for 125 years. Businessman Max Smith had property on Central Drive and bought the derelict flats and turned them into holiday flats. He let the businesses below have the leases. Central Drive was busy in those days, all good businesses and a thriving community.”

The Central Car park area is set to be cleared to make way for the £300m Blackpool Central tourist attraction scheme.

It will feature a flying theatre with a Chariots of the Gods theme, rides, an immersive virtual reality experience, a rooftop bar, plus cafes and restaurants.

First revealed in 2018, it is expected to create up to 1,000 jobs and boost annual spending in the town by £75m.

A Blackpool Council spokesman said: “Proposals for the Central Car park site and surrounding area have been widely publicised for a number of years.

“In order for the developers to deliver this transformational change and large scale investment within the town, the council needs to acquire the remaining property assets contained within the area of the site.

“Over the past few years, the council has been in ongoing discussions and negotiations with the parties that continue to hold interests in the site, including a number of units that remain on Central Drive.

“We continue to offer support to seek to ensure that an amicable resolution is found with all parties.

“The council is committed to help deliver the Blackpool Central scheme and a council executive in January authorised a compulsory purchase order that will be sought from the Secretary of State in the near future, so that a cleared site is secure d to enable the development to be brought forward.

“It is the intention of the developer to make a planning application for Phase One of the site this summer.”

 

Here’s what films are showing at Odeon, Island and Vue cinemas in Blackpool, Cleveleys and St Annes

Home | Blackpool Gazette

The big screen is back as cinemas in Blackpool, Cleveleys and St Annes reopen in line with the easing of coronavirus restrictions – read on to see what will be playing.

The Odeon in Rigby Road, VUE in North Promenade and The Island Cinema in South Promenade are back in business with a host of blockbuster films on offer.

Below are all the latest Hollywood hits and classic re-releases that are playing in Blackpool, Cleveleys and St Annes today (Tuesday, May 18).

THE ISLAND CINEMA, South Promenade

The big screen is back as cinemas in Blackpool, Cleveleys and St Annes reopen.The big screen is back as cinemas in Blackpool, Cleveleys and St Annes reopen.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway – The lovable rabbit is back and Bea, Thomas, and friends have created a makeshift family.

Film times: 4pm, 4.30pm

Nomadland – A woman in her sixties who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.

Film times: 4.45pm

Godzilla vs. Kong – The Gigantic Kong meets the unstoppable Godzilla. The world watches to see which one becomes the king of all monsters.

Film times: 7.30pm only

Those Who Wish Me Dead – A teenage murder witness finds himself pursued by twin assassins in the Montana wilderness with a survival expert tasked with protecting him — and a forest fire threatening to consume them all.

Film times: 7.45pm only

Spiral: From the Book of Saw – A sadistic mastermind unleashes a twisted form of justice in ‘Spiral’, the terrifying new chapter from the book of ‘Saw’.

Film times: 8pm only

The top 40 films Brits can’t wait to see in cinemas when they reopen

VUE, North Promenade

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway

Film times: 4.15pm, 5.20pm, 5.30pm, 6.10pm and 8pm

Spiral: From the Book of Saw

Film times: 5pm, 7.30pm and 8.25pm

Godzilla vs. Kong

Film times: 4.40pm, 6.55pm and 8.15pm

Mortal Kombat – MMA fighter Cole Young seeks out Earth’s greatest champions in order to stand against the enemies of Outworld in a high stakes battle for the universe.

Film times: 3.15pm only

The Unholy – A hearing-impaired girl is visited by the Virgin Mary and can suddenly hear, speak, and heal the sick. As people flock to witness her miracles, terrifying events unfold.

Film times: 8.40pm only

Taxi Driver– A mentally unstable Vietnam War veteran works as a night-time taxi driver in New York City where the perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge for violent action, attempting to save a teen prostitute in the process.

Film times: 7.45pm only

Grease – It’s 1958, summer is over and the hormonally-charged seniors of Rydell High are reluctantly returning to school, ready to fall back in with old friends and trade stories of the previous months’ conquests.

Film times: 6pm only

Gladiator – When a Roman General is betrayed, and his family murdered by an emperor’s corrupt son, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge.

Film times: 8.25pm only

Total Recall (30th Anniversary 4K Restoration) – 2084. Quaid is haunted each night by a dream that he is on Mars looking for beautiful Melina. He goes against his wife Lori’s wishes and visits the Recall laboratories. They claim that they can help make his dream a reality.

Full times: 3.25pm

Tom & Jerry: The Movie – An eye-popping blend of classic animation and live action, Tom and Jerry’s new big-screen adventure stakes new ground for the iconic characters and forces them to do the unthinkable…work together to save the day.

Film times: 3.50pm

THE ODEON, Rigby Road

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway

Film times: 3.30pm, 4pm, 4.30pm, 5pm, 6pm, 7pm and 8pm

Nomadland

Full times: 4.45pm and 7.45pm

Godzilla vs. Kong

Full times: 3.45pm, 5.15pm, 6.45pm and 8.15pm

Tom & Jerry: The Movie

Full times: 4.15pm

The Unholy

Film times: 6.15pm and 9pm

Sound of Metal – A heavy-metal drummer’s life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing.

Film times: 7.30pm

Mortal Kombat

Film times: 5.30pm and 8.30pm

The Little Things – Deputy Sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon is sent to LA for what should have been a quick evidence-gathering assignment. Instead, he becomes embroiled in the search for a killer.

Film times: 8.45pm

 

Asda’s surprise delivery of ten laptops to a Fleetwood school

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A Fleetwood school has been given 10 laptops, thanks to the port’s Asda store and its promise to provide technology to a school which needs it.

Archie Brooks and Bailey Keighley try out the new laptops donated to St Wulstan's and St Edmund's Catholic Primary School in FleetwoodArchie Brooks and Bailey Keighley try out the new laptops donated to St Wulstan’s and St Edmund’s Catholic Primary School in Fleetwood

Headteacher Jane Barnes said: “It was such a surprise and we can’t thank Asda and Dell enough for choosing our school to receive these laptops, this donation will go a long way in helping children gain access to the technology and data packages that will help to break down some of the digital barriers we face.”

Layla said: “I’ve a really close relationship with St Wulstan’s and St Edmund’s Primary School and I know what a massive difference this donation is going to make to both the school and to the families who will receive these laptops.

“I’m pleased Asda can help to play a small part in helping to break down the digital barriers so the can children can continue their education remotely both now and in the future.”

Asda launched this initiative to support schools in its communities that are struggling with digital exclusion. According to Ofcom, around nine per cent of children in the UK – between 1.1 million and 1.8 million – do not have access to a laptop, desktop or tablet at home.

These children are primarily from disadvantaged backgrounds and at risk of falling further behind with their education.

Each laptop comes with a tech bundle that includes a headset and a mobile internet dongle with a data allowance of 20gb from Asda’s network partner Vodafone.

The dongle and data allowance has been funded by a separate £500,000 contribution from the retailer’s charity arm, The Asda Foundation. Laptops will also include a one-year warranty and technical support. Each school will manage the distribution to priority pupils, and Asda’s in-house IT support team will also provide support to set up the equipment.

 

High street scoops £80,000 grant for town’s regeneration

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Kirkham has been awarded an £80,000 grant from Historic England to create and deliver community-led cultural activities on the high street over the next three years.

It is one of more than 60 across England to receive a share of £6m to deliver a Cultural Programme as part of the town’s High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) status which was

awarded last year.

The grant will enable Kirkham’s Cultural Consortium to deliver a programme of creative art-based commissions inspired by Kirkham’s richly diverse heritage.

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Helen Juste, Kirkham Cultural Consortium’s Cultural Producer

Helen Juste, Kirkham Cultural Consortium’s Cultural Producer

Features are set to include the creation of an interactive heritage trail focusing on listed buildings and historic local stories; a series of town centre murals which will animate and illuminate

Kirkham’s industrial past and the development of an annual heritage event, with displays providing visitors with the opportunity to travel back in time, while sampling local food and drink.

Read More

Kirkham awarded £6.29 million by the Government to revitalise high street and to…

It will also fund the setting up of a shop, on the town’s main Poulton Street, which will become the base for ‘Artists in Residence’ – showcasing artwork created by both artists and

individuals who take part in a series of activities.

It is hoped the programme of events and initiatives will not only inspire local creativity but improve health and wellbeing through community and social engagement.

Helen Juste, Kirkham Cultural Consortium’s Cultural Producer, said: “This grant provides an exciting opportunity for the community to create a cultural vision for their town.

“The Cultural Programme will deliver a wealth of opportunities for individuals to work with professional artists to create artwork which will animate the town.

“It is an exciting time for Kirkham, for the community to work together, to bring alive Kirkham’s past while improving its future prospects, assisting in its regeneration.”

Heidi Hopkinson, co-owner of the town’s Serendipity House gift shop and chairman of Kirkham Business Group, said: “We’re delighted the Cultural Consortium has been awarded this

grant and we cannot wait to see the cultural vision take shape.”

 

Blackpool’s Regent Cinema set for return

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The Regent Cinema in Blackpool will return to screening films this month when it shows a Quentin Tarantino classic.’s Pulp Fiction on Friday, May 21, from 7.30pm.

The Regent Cinema in Blackpool reopens this monthThe Regent Cinema in Blackpool reopens this month

The cinema, on the corner of Church Street and Regent Road, will be screening 1994 crime drama, Pulp Fiction, starring Uma Thurman and John Travolta.

The cinema has been shut since last year.

 

Elaine to take over as new Fylde mayor

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Elaine Silverwood is to be the next mayor of Fylde.

The independent councillor who has represented the Kirkham North ward since 2007, will officially take over the role next week at Fylde Council’s annual meeting.

The socially-distanced event will be lower-key than usual and a full ‘mayor-making’ ceremony is set to follow in the summer.

Coun Cheryl Little, who represents the Fairhaven ward, will be the new deputy mayor.

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Elaine Silverwood has been a Fylde councillor since 2007

Elaine Silverwood has been a Fylde councillor since 2007

Fylde mayor set to stay on for a second year

The pandemic lockdown also accounted for the mayoral balls, traditionally the main single charity fund-raisers of the year, not being possible.

Coun Silverwood is a former Kirkham town mayor and was Fylde’s deputy mayor in 2013-14, when Coun Linda Nulty was first citizen.

The new mayor-elect has chosen three charities to support during her year of office – The Linden Centre, a service at Trinity Hospice which provides counselling and support to adults, children and young people who have, or are caring for, someone with a non-curative or life-limiting illness; Fylde Coast Women’s Aid and Kirkham and Wesham Club Day.

This year’s Club Day, as in 2020, has already been called off because of the pandemic, along its counterpart in Lytham and St Annes Carnival.

Coun Silverwood, whose book and cafe business based in Kirkham town centre, celebrates its 21st anniversary next month, said: “It’s going to be an interesting year with still being in Covid’s shadow.”

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Blackpool sex club dispute to be decided at town hall meeting

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A row over the future operation of a Blackpool sex club must go before councillors to be resolved.

David Moseley, acting on behalf of Pool Construction Ltd, has applied for the transfer of a sexual entertainment venue licence relating to the Eden lap dancing club on Queen Street.

But since January this year the licence has been held by AA Recreation 1 Ltd which is linked to the Sinless Lap Dancing Club on The Strand in the resort.

It has objected to the application for the licence transfer citing concerns over the suitability of the applicant.

Eden on Queen StreetEden on Queen Street

Documents submitted to the council say: “The fact is the licence was issued to ‘AA Recreation 1 Ltd’ and expires in January 2022.

“Mr Moseley’s attempt to transfer a licence without the current holder’s consent is akin to applying to DVLA to have your neighbour’s car registered in your name without have the decency to make an offer to buy it first.”

The dispute will now go before a meeting of the council’s public protection sub-committee on May 25.

A report to the sub-committee says: “Eden, 15-17 Queen Street, Blackpool has been licensed as a sexual entertainment venue (SEV) since September 2013.

“The licence has been held by AA Recreation 1 Ltd since January 15 2021. The Licensing Service received an application on April 8 2021 from Pool Construction Ltd to transfer the licence.

“Following advertisement of the transfer application, the Licensing Service received a public objection via email on May 5 2021 from the directors and shareholders for AA Recreation 1 Ltd. The objection looks at the suitability of the applicant.”

Eden was stripped of its sex entertainment venue licence in July 2019 after a 25-year-old man on a stag do was torched by a dancer wielding an aerosol can and a lighter – leaving him in hospital suffering from second-degree burns to his torso.

There had also been complaints of customers being over-charged when using debit and credit cards to buy dances and drinks, Blackpool Magistrates’ Court was told.

But following talks with the council around how the club would operate, Eden was allowed to re-open in January 2020.

 

Tourists arrive in Blackpool as resort opens back up to the masses

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Members of the town’s night-time economy are excited to welcome customers back inside

Today has been a long awaited day for Blackpool’s tourism and hospitality businesses as government guidelines now allow six people or two households to mix indoors.

Some of the town’s most iconic and well-loved attractions are now able to receive visitors including Blackpool Tower, Madame Tussauds, Coral Island and Blackpool Winter Gardens.

As part of the Government’s phased plan to lift lockdown, hotels, bnbs, pubs, bars, restaurants, cinemas, indoor attractions, bingo halls, casinos and soft play centres can welcome indoor guests.

Attractions that opened up their outdoor areas in April are today (May 17) able to welcome guests inside to enjoy more of the fun such as Blackpool Pleasure Beach, with people enjoying coffee inside its new WG Bean cafe named after its founder, and Blackpool Zoo opening up its animal houses.

Della Belk, PR and Marketing Manager at Blackpool Zoo, said: “We welcome the news that the indoor areas of Blackpool Zoo are able to reopen from Monday May 17 and I am sure all our visitors will be delighted too.

Staff inside Blackpool Pleasure Beach's WG Bean coffee shop waiting welcome guests inside

Staff inside Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s WG Bean coffee shop waiting welcome guests inside (Image: Blackpool Pleasure Beach)

“It has been wonderful to see people enjoying a well-deserved and long overdue visit since the gates opened in April. All the safety measures we have had in place throughout the pandemic remain, so visitors can rest assured that we have covered all the bases when it comes to being Covid-secure.

“With summer just around the corner, we can’t wait to welcome more people back to Blackpool Zoo.”

Shoppers were out in force this morning too and tourists could be seen arriving with suitcases to the resort’s freshly opened hotels.

One of the hottest attractions, Coral Bay, saw families return to the enjoy the plethora of arcade games.

The predictably unsettled Lancashire weather has resulted in a slower start than expected, however the resort is expected to fill up during the half term holiday next week.

Blackpool DJ and producer, Lee Jester Watson, is excited to return to what he does best tonight.

Lee, who is also abroadcaster at In Demand Radio said: “Today’s the day hospitality starts to properly reopen and I’m so excited to be going back DJing tonight get ready for Blackpool’s newest nightclub Trilogy on Talbot Road.

“Matt and the team have done a fantastic job, you have to see it. I want to wish all my friends who are going back to work all the best, we’ve waited so long for this.

Blackpool brothers DJ Lee Jester Watson and Marley's rumbar owner Jason Fubar can't wait to get back to the night time economy

Blackpool brothers DJ Lee Jester Watson and Marley’s rumbar owner Jason Fubar can’t wait to get back to the night time economy (Image: DJ Lee Jester Watson)

“A big good luck to my brother Jason who’s opening Marley’s Rum bar on North Promenade today, he’s put everything into it and it looks amazing. I’m sure everyone is going to love it.”

Blackpool, known for decades its DIY and independent music scene can’t wait to welcome back its musician from all over.

Some if its mot well-known and respected music venues have struggled to get through the Coronavirus pandemic without funding.

Founder of Blackpool music festival, Jon Bamborough, said: “I’ve had the privilege of seeing the insides of both The Waterloo Music Bar and The Galleon Bar in the last week and I have to say that both of them are the best decorated venues I have ever seen.

“Considering that they are up against the likes of the Hard Rock Cafe chain they really are both exceptional and this is due, in no small measure, to their owners Ian Fletcher and Stephen Pierre.

“Both of whom have put considerable time and effort into making their respective venue the best they can be. These venues are not only a credit to Blackpool and the North West but to the whole of the UK.

Owner of Waterloo music bar Ian Fletcher has re-opened with a launch of a brand new Motorhead stout

Owner of Waterloo music bar Ian Fletcher has re-opened with a launch of a brand new Motorhead stout (Image: Waterloo Music Bar)

“Please take the time to show your support, it would not only mean the world to them but will also help to ensure that these fantastic venues can continue to deliver for you.

“Good Luck to all the pubs, cafes and restaurants opening for the first time since lockdown, I wish you all every success because the whole town will benefit from that. My thoughts tomorrow will be with Ian and Stephen, a pair of proper legends!”

Giant sand artwork welcomes visitors back to Blackpool

Home | Blackpool Gazette

It was a simple message in the sand as Blackpool’s arcades, pubs, eateries and attractions rolled out the welcome mat to visitors and declared ‘Blackpool is back.’

Visit Blackpool teamed up with artists from the Sand in Your Eye company to create a 70m etching of the town’s skyline – including the Tower, Central Pier’s big wheel, and the Big One – to mark the latest milestone in the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

Giant sand artwork welcomes visitors back to Blackpool | Lancashire Evening  Post

The sand art, raked into the sand on a stretch of beach along the famous Golden Mile, took nearly six hours to complete.

It is one of the largest pieces of sand art ever created in Blackpool. The process is described by the four artists from the Sand In Your Eye company as nature’s equivalent to a giant Etch A Sketch.

Blackpool Council tourism boss coun Gillian Campbell said: “It’s exciting – it’s been a bit like waiting for Christmas this reopening.

“It’s been a long time coming – it’s been a very long and tough 15 months for everyone – everyone who works in the tourism industry and for us as a Council and Visit Blackpool not being able to put on any events.

“It’s been incredibly difficult. But I think we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel now fingers crossed.”

“So we are delighted to draw in the sand one of Britain’s most iconic skylines to announce that Blackpool is back”.

Today’s easing of restrictions means that major indoor attractions such as The Blackpool Tower and Circus, Sandcastle Waterpark, Coral Island, SEA LIFE and Madame Tussauds will be able to open for business ahead of the next Bank Holiday at the end of the month, along with indoor venues such as the Winter Gardens, VIVA Blackpool and Funny Girls.

Hundreds of hotels and guesthouses, including the brand new Premier Inn North Pier which has been built on the site of the historic Yates’s Wine Lodge site in Talbot Square, can also open to overnight visitors.

Blackpool is back! Resort celebrates biggest unlocking of lockdown yet

Home | Blackpool Gazette

The sun shone on the resort, which today celebrated the biggest unlocking of Covid restrictions yet.

With arcades, pubs, eateries and attractions filled by the sound of chatter and laughter – and the jingling of tills – the excitement was palpable as traders declared: ‘Blackpool is back’.

To mark the big day, a 70m etching of the town’s skyline – including the Tower, Central Pier’s big wheel, and the Big One – was raked into the sand on the beach.

“We are thrilled our tourism businesses can get back to doing what they do best – providing fun and entertainment to millions of people,” tourism chief Coun Gillian Campbell said.

To mark the big day, a 70m etching of the town’s skyline – including the Tower, Central Pier’s big wheel, and the Big One – was raked into the sand on the beachTo mark the big day, a 70m etching of the town’s skyline – including the Tower, Central Pier’s big wheel, and the Big One – was raked into the sand on the beach

“The last 15 months have been incredibly difficult but finally we can tell the world that we are back in business.”

The easing of lockdown measures meant major attractions like the Tower and Circus, Sandcastle Waterpark, Coral Island arcade, Sea Life aquarium, and Madame Tussauds waxworks museum could all reopen for the first time in months ahead of the upcoming bank holiday.

Other indoor venues welcoming visitors once again include Winter Gardens, Funny Girls, Viva, and hundreds of hotels and guest houses – including the new Premier Inn North Pier, built on the site of the burned down Yates’s Wine Lodge in Talbot Square.

Friends Mary Caveney and Maria Farrar at the Winter Gardens
Friends Mary Caveney and Maria Farrar at the Winter Gardens

“We are feeling a range of emotions at the moment but mainly we are all raring to go.”

Tower Circus clowns Mooky and Boo took to the Comedy Carpet this afternoon to practice.

Mooky said: “We’ve been rehearsing for this day since the beginning of the second lockdown and we can’t wait to be entertaining live audiences once again.”

Last month, self-catering accommodation and outdoor hospitality and attractions – including the Pleasure Beach, Blackpool Zoo, and the resort’s three piers – were allowed to open.

Jade Benson and Joe Cooper pulling pints in the Brew Room.Jade Benson and Joe Cooper pulling pints in the Brew Room.

The next phase, which would see all remaining restrictions on social contact scrapped, is pencilled in for June 21 – although concern over the Indian variant of coronavirus has cast doubt on that date.

That dark cloud on the horizon didn’t dampen any spirits, though.

Friends Mary Caveney, 69 and Maria Farrar, 68, were among the first few to sit down for a cup of tea and a sandwich in the Winter Gardens.

The pair hadn’t seen each other since before Christmas and were enjoying a catch up.

Three-year-old Jaiden and six-year-old Jasmine at the arcades on Central PierThree-year-old Jaiden and six-year-old Jasmine at the arcades on Central Pier

Maria, of Norbreck Road in Bispham, said: “It’s the first time I have been on the trams in over a year and I am really happy to be out.

“Mary and I haven’t seen each other for quite a while and decided we’d meet today.

“It seems really weird to say it but I have found it quite emotional coming back into Blackpool because it has been so long.

“It’s quite a big deal for me and we had been talking about the Winter Gardens so we have come here especially to have a nice gossip and natter.”

Mary, of Willow Bank Avenue in South Shore, said: “I’m slightly different as I have been out a few times as I can’t stand being cooped up in the house.

“I have been very impressed with how all the businesses have been dealing with the lockdown relaxation so it’s really good to be out.”

The arcades were all open again in BlackpoolThe arcades were all open again in Blackpool

The pair, who have known each other for more than 15 years, have both had their two jabs and feel safer than earlier in the pandemic.

Maria said: “It gives you a sense of security knowing you have the vaccine in you.

“Perhaps it won’t stop me from catching it but it makes me feel like I won’t end up in hospital with it.

“I don’t like wearing my mask at all but I do it out of courtesy and you don’t have to wear it while you are sitting down having a bite to eat and a cuppa anyway.”

Mary added: “There has been far fewer flu and food poisoning since we all started wearing masks so I’m all for them.

“I don’t like wearing them all the time but they have their plus points.

“It makes you think how many people haven’t been washing their hands all these years.”

Susan and Barry Taylor from Bispham said they think the resort is back in business for good – and had a pint at The Brew Room in Church Street for the first time this year.

Susan, 70, said: “It feels really good to be in the pub again after the year we have had.

“I’ve had problems with my heart and am having tests on it, so it feels great to have something to look forward to and enjoy at the moment.

“We really like the food in here and we knew it would be one of the first places to go once it reopened.

“It’s also great to be supporting local business and workers in Blackpool because they have all been hit hard recently.

Barry, 69, added: “It really does feel great to be doing things in Blackpool again and back in some sort of routine.

“It’s a Marmite town but one that some people really do love and it is great to see people coming back on their holidays here so soon as well.

“For Susan and I, it’s just great to be able to have a stroll round town and pop in for some pub grub, which we have been missing.

“We just have to hope that this is the last of the virus and we don’t get pushed into another lockdown.”

Businessman and former Blackpool mayor Robert Wynne, owner of The Brew Room, The Rose and Crown, and West Coast Rock Cafe, said the response to lockdown relaxation has been super.

He said: “It has been a really positive start for all three places.

“We are offering online table bookings and in the last two weeks we have done 1,200 bookings.

“We are also allowing walk-in customers and the response at West Coast has been brilliant on the first day.

“It’s great to have both Blackpool residents and tourists back in the town and with even more options for them to do something they haven’t been able to do in so long.”

Friends Gail Prasher, Maureen Penfold and Eve Wells from Banbury in Oxfordshire came to Blackpool for the weekend and had been looking forward to the resort’s arcades being open again.

The trio were at Central Pier on the penny machines.

Gail said: “I’ve been coming to Blackpool every year since I was a child and I just really enjoy it.

“With all the restrictions being relaxed we thought we would make a weekend of it.

“It’s just nice that we can do stuff like this again and not be in fear of the virus all the time.

“It does help having the vaccine as well.”

Maureen added: “I think doing things like being at the arcade helps a bit with your mental health as it is something different for your brain to try out.

“We’ve not had much luck yet in the arcade – but fingers crossed we will before we leave.”

And Eve said: “The thing I most enjoy about Blackpool is the same thing I have missed in the last year – socialising. Everyone is so friendly here and they make you feel welcome.

“It’s always good to get the opportunity to come and we have all had a good weekend of shopping, drinking and enjoying being out with friends again.”

James Mulachy from Liverpool visited with his family and also took advantage of the arcades reopening to entertain his children, Jaiden, three, and Jasmine, six.

He said: “We hired a lodge for the weekend because the children really love it in Blackpool.

“It’s really good to get away from your house because after so long you get sick of seeing the same thing all the time.

“We head back today but it was good to get them into the arcades after so long.

“Each relaxation of the lockdown feels like normality is being resumed again and it has definitely put a smile on Jaiden and Jasmine.”

WHAT CHANGED?

Since midnight, people in England have been able to meet outdoors in groups of up to 30, and indoors in groups of six, or two households.

Pubs and restaurants are able to serve customers outdoors, although they are still limited to table service.

Other recreational venues such as cinemas, museums, theatres, and concert halls are allowed to open, although there are capacity limits on large events.

Up to 30 people are allowed at weddings, and the cap on the number of mourners attending funerals was lifted, in line with the safe capacity of venues.

Secondary school pupils in most areas are no longer being told to wear face masks in class and communal areas, and university students can return to campus for in-person lectures.

The ‘stay in the UK’ restriction has lifted and people can travel to ‘green list’ countries without having to quarantine, provided they take on post-arrival test.

FLY IN THE OINTMENT?

Boris Johnson and health experts urged people to exercise caution when they head to pubs and restaurants as the lockdown eases despite concerns about the spread of an Indian coronavirus variant.

Although ministers believe the vaccines will be effective against the highly transmissible Indian variant of concern, there are worries about the impact of its spread on those who have refused to have a jab or not yet been offered one.

The Prime Minister urged people to treat the latest easing of restrictions with a “heavy dose of caution” while Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng warned against excessive drinking for those returning to bars.

Mr Kwarteng insisted the June 21 date for the ending of restrictions in England was still likely to be met.

He said “people should have common sense, they should use judgment and I think if we act in a reasonable way, there is no reason to suppose that we can’t reopen the economy entirely on June 21”.

He added: “We need to be cautious because if we get too carried away and the mutant variant spreads too quickly, that could endanger our ability to open up on June 21.”

Professor Graham Medley, a member of the Government’s Sage scientific advisory panel, said the chances of the June 21 date being delayed was “well less than 50 per cent” but added “it is uncertain”.

The main cause for concern is the Indian variant, which is on the way to becoming the dominant strain in some places including Bolton and Blackburn.

A major campaign has been launched to encourage people in those areas to receive a jab.

Mr Kwarteng said he did not want to “stigmatise people” over vaccine hesitancy, but said: “We’re not exactly where we want to be among certain communities but I think the take-up has been much greater in the last few months and more and more people are convinced that this is the way to keep themselves and their families safe.”

Dr Helen Wall, who is leading the vaccination effort in Bolton, said over the weekend more than 6,200 vaccines were administered in the area.

She said before the weekend there were around 10,000 people in the area in the highest priority groups, those deemed to be clinically vulnerable and the over-50s, who were yet to be vaccinated, but added: “I’m hoping that we’ve made a big dent into that now”.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said there were “concerns” about small numbers of older people who are yet to take up their vaccine offer.

“The biggest risk comes from, if there are large numbers of older people who are unvaccinated,” he said.

Mr Kwarteng defended the timing of tougher restrictions being imposed on travel from India amid speculation decisions may have been delayed due to the Prime Minister’s planned trade mission to the country in April.

India was placed on the red list, effectively banning travel except for returning Britons who had to go into a quarantine hotel, on April 23.

“It is easy with hindsight to say things could have been better or quicker and all the rest of it, but I think there was a balanced approach,” he said.

Despite the pleas for caution, some drinkers took advantage of the relaxations to sink pints shortly after midnight yesterday.