Category Archives: Nostalgic

Blackpool Tower Ballroom’s amazing 21,000 hour lockdown restoration costing £1.1m

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A team that includes some of the most highly skilled craftsmen in the country, who have worked across the world on projects including the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace have worked on it

Specialist painters and fibrous plasterers work on the major conservation project taking place in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, in Blackpool, northern England on April 20, 2021
Specialist painters and fibrous plasterers work on the major conservation project taking place in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, in Blackpool, northern England on April 20, 2021 (Image: This is Influential)

One of the UK’s most iconic buildings is today a step closer to re-opening its doors following a £1.1M refurbishment.

The Blackpool Tower Ballroom, located in the Grade 1 Listed Blackpool Tower, is hoping to re-open on June 21, providing the Government’s latest road-map out of lockdown goes to plan.

The venue, which dates back to 1894 and is known by millions as the home to Strictly Come Dancing’s annual ballroom special, has under-gone the most extensive programme of work and deep clean for more than 60 years.

A team, including some of the most highly skilled craftsmen in the country, who have worked across the world on projects including the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, have dedicated more than 21,000 hours, over a period of six months, each climbing an average of 85 flights of scaffolding daily, to restore the famous Blackpool Tower Ballroom to its original glory.

The team has discovered signatures under the murals that adorn the ornate plasterwork ceiling showing the last time anyone was in this space was in 1957.

A specialist painter works on the major conservation project taking place in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, in Blackpool, northern England on April 20, 2021
A specialist painter works on the major conservation project taking place in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, in Blackpool, northern England on April 20, 2021 (Image: Blackpool Tower Ballroom)

These historic works took place following a fire in the building which caused severe damage to the ballroom. At the time, these works were estimated to cost over half a million pounds and took 17 months to complete.

The work has been made possible thanks to a lifeline grant of £764,000 as part of the Government’s unprecedented £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund, together with funding from Blackpool Council, taking the total investment to £1.1M.

The grant, awarded to Blackpool Council by Historic England, has supported the venue to carry out comprehensive repair and restoration work on the ballroom’s period plasterwork ceiling.

Project Manager Keith Langton inspects and oversees the major conservation work taking place in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, in Blackpool, northern England on April 20, 2021
Project Manager Keith Langton inspects and oversees the major conservation work taking place in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, in Blackpool, northern England on April 20, 202 (Image: This is Influential)

It is one of the most “significant” projects Historic England has been involved with to date and has replicated the skills used by workers back in 1894 when the Tower was built, including:

· Skilled scaffolders, artists, decorators, structural engineers, joiners, plasters and conservators all pooling their skills.

· The rare art of fibrous plastering

· More than two tonnes of plaster being mixed.

A specialist painter works on the major conservation project taking place in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, in Blackpool, northern England on April 20, 2021
A specialist painter works on the major conservation project taking place in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, in Blackpool, northern England on April 20, 2021 (Image: Blackpool Tower Ballroom)

· Organic hessian being imported from India to mix with the plaster to make a special formula allowing intricate repairs to be carried out to the ornate plaster work adorning the ballroom ceiling.

· A team of over 30 specialists on site, working a combined 21,000 hours.

· Skilled craftspeople working daily in tiny roof spaces to inspect and restore the ornate plasterwork from behind the ceiling.

· Oil paints being colour-matched by the naked eye by on site restoration experts to patch up murals damaged by water ingress and nicotine over the years.

· Several hundred litres of gold paint being mixed to ensure the gold leaf ornate artwork is restored to its former glory.

· Deep cleaning behind all of the ornate models which adorn the ceiling, with dozens of dust filled bags being removed from site every day.

· Murals being deep cleaned removing water damage and nicotine damage from over the decades.

· Intricate and detailed research work being carried out to establish exactly how the work was originally done to ensure all the works which took place during this latest refurbishment were carried out to the exact same standards. This involved drilling more than 12 square spaces in the roof space to enable this “methodology” as the craftspeople call it to be carried out.

The entire space of the Blackpool Tower Ballroom is covered in scaffolding to facilitate the major conservation project taking place, in Blackpool, northern England on April 20, 2021
The entire space of the Blackpool Tower Ballroom is covered in scaffolding to facilitate the major conservation project taking place, in Blackpool, northern England on April 20, 2021 (Image: Blackpool Tower Ballroom)

The work, led by Hayles and Howe, specialists in ornamental plaster work and scagliola, has also uncovered some incredibly rare and unusual finds – all discovered in the angel figures adorning the ballroom ceiling.

These have included newspapers dating back to 1911, old cigarette packs which would be museum pieces today and even an old walking stick, believed to date back to the early fifties.

Keith Langton, project manager, said: “I thought Buckingham Palace had the wow factor – which obviously it absolutely did.

“But working here at The Blackpool Tower Ballroom has literally blown me away. This really is something else. It is a project I will never forget – and perhaps even a project for me to retire on.

Everyone wants to end their career on a high – and I don’t think I could get a better high than working at the Ballroom.

“It has been an absolute pleasure and honour!”

He has, however, warned of the desperate need to recruit more young craftspeople into what he describes as a “rare trade.”

Keith added: “We are just not seeing enough young people coming through.

“Fibrous plastering – the key trade being used on the refurbishment – is becoming a rare trade and we just cannot allow this to happen.

“Without people being skilled in this way, buildings like this would be forced to close. It is essential more young people take up careers in this sector.

Literally everywhere I go, in this country and abroad, I make it a priority to pass on as many skills as possible to as many people as possible – hopefully inspiring them all along the way!”

This the longest period of time in its history the ballroom has been closed, with the exception of the fire in 1956/7.

 

NEWS The Blackpool Comic, Who Wrote His Own Sitcom, Starred In It And Remembered His Lines Without A Script …

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Last week we remembered Harry Korris’ Happidrome show, which the comedian put on as a summer show sketch in the 1930s.

From this he developed a radio series that ran for seven years from 1941. In 1943 there was also a film version.

Unfortunately, a little gremlin was active on the page last week and implemented the captions. Today we put Harry back in history with this “at home” Gazette photo with his wife, Connie.

Harry (1891-1971) lived at Squires Gate for nearly 40 years, first on Dunes Avenue and then on Lytham Road.

So what was the second radio sitcom that originated in Blackpool?

It was Club Night, written by and with Dave Morris (1896-1960), whose Blackpool appearances lasted 40 years and who lived in Duchess Drive, North Shore, for more than 20 years.

Coun Mrs. Constance May Korris and husband Harry Korris

Dave had starred in Blackpool for ten consecutive summer seasons before Club Night first aired in the fall of 1950.

The story of how the show came about was told on the Gazette’s radio column in the spring of 1950.

Dave had had a drink with BBC’s Robert Stead in the Dress Circle Bar at Blackpool’s Palace Theater, a popular hangout for performers, producers, and Manchester radio guys.

The conversation was put through to the Gazette, probably by Dave.

“There doesn’t seem to be anything new under the sun. What we need in broadcast are new ideas, ”said Stead.

“How about a workers club on the radio?” answered Dave.

“Look at the characters that you have. There’s the little guy with the chickens; the brave who always drinks drinks; the eternal grouser and wise man, that’s me. “

Dave explained, “The main topics of conversation are beer, racing and soccer until someone gets a brainwave and starts politics. It would be good down-to-earth fun. “

“But who is going to write such a script?” asked Mr. Stead.

And he put himself in the spotlight as treasurer and loud Mr. Know All from the club. Like its other characters, it was a clubland stereotype.

There was a steward, played by Billy Smith quoting the rules, and the Wacker, played by Liverpool’s comic Fred Ferris, who was in and out of the club forever and asked, “As’ ee am in?” That was just a way to include yourself in a round of drinks.

There was the boring Army veteran, Pongo, first played by the show’s producer, Ronnie Taylor, and the disrespectful (to Dave) Snuffy Hargreaves, played by Frank Bass.

Then there was Cedric, the little man in the bowler hat, meek and gentle, who didn’t touch alcohol, part of who gave Joe Gladwin the character around which the comedy joke began.

The Gazette article had revealed to readers who did not already know that Dave was almost blind and had a unique arrangement with the BBC. He didn’t have to read from a script when it aired: “I write my own material and can remember it – usually,” he told the newspaper’s radio columnist.

“I had to get permission from the BBC high-ups. From their point of view, that’s quite a risk. “Next week: The radio and stage success of Club Night – and the reason Dave didn’t attend the Royal Variety Performance at the Opera House in 1955.

Blackpool Rock Gin: The story behind the seaside inspired drink enjoyed by Jean-Christophe Novelli

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Blackpool Rock Gin expertly distilled and handcrafted in Lancashire and can be found in many of the resort’s bars, pubs and restaurants

Blackpool Rock Gin is inspired by the seaside
Blackpool Rock Gin is inspired by the seaside (Image: Blackpool Rock Gin)

Blackpool Rock Gin has become a well-loved brand not only in the town’s local bars, pubs and restaurants but also in other parts of the UK and further afield.

The truly Lancashire gin is the only one of its kind to actually use its product, i.e. a stick of Blackpool Rock, within the drink and not simply use flavouring as is with the case with many other flavoured gins.

The idea for the pink gin came about around three years ago by founders Simon, now aged 48, and Jay now aged 37.

Simon, born on the Fylde coast, has spent over 30 years in the drinks industry supporting national and international gin brands and distillers achieving many multiple international awards.

Jay, who lives in Lytham St Annes with his young family, is a design expert with his own marketing and web design agency.

He supports many local businesses across the North West working predominantly in the hospitality space.

The original Blackpool Rock Gin along side the 125th Limited Edition bottle
The original Blackpool Rock Gin along side the 125th Limited Edition bottle (Image: Blackpool Rock Gin)

One evening the pair were out drinking gin on a terrace in Lytham discussing life when the idea was born.

Jay said: “Simon asked me how work was going, and I basically said I was fed up with making successful brands and products for people.

“Simon, as ex senior manager of one of the largest distilleries in Europe, had said that people had kept asking him to create his own gin. At the time gin had really taken off and the industry was booming so we got to thinking of what we could do ourselves.

“Blackpool really enjoys its nostalgia so we immediately thought of Blackpool Rock. We also wanted to do something no one else had done too and actually have the real product in the drink.

“From that point we set about trying to make that happen.”

"Seaside poster" for Blackpool Rock Gin
“Seaside poster” for Blackpool Rock Gin (Image: Blackpool Rock Gin)

The two were to find out that the unique process this involves would be much more complicated than trying to dissolve a stick of rock within the gin.

They therefore enlisted the help of one of the oldest Blackpool rock factories in the town.

After much fine filtering and technical wizardry the results that came was a lovely, subtle sweet, original pink gin.

The drink is now expertly distilled and hand crafted using 10 premium botanicals and the base gin is made to the London dry standard and the single sourced spirit is produced in Lancashire.

Truly a craft gin, the pair painstakingly hand label and bottle every gin themselves.

Blackpool Rock Gin is a true Lancashire gin
Blackpool Rock Gin is a true Lancashire gin (Image: Blackpool Rock Gin)

Jay said: “There is sometimes a concern that because Blackpool Rock is used it’s going to really sweet almost like a liqueur.

“It’s very subtle however – if you mix it with lemonade it really brings out the sweetness and if you mix it with tonic it tastes truly like a dry gin.

“There can be a little bit of stuffiness within the gin world and we don’t really enter competitions. Simon has done all that and, given his expertise, he says with all honesty that this gin is one of the best he’s ever produced.

“As someone from Lytham I know sometimes there can be a little bit of snobbery towards Blackpool too however we know how great and unique the town is.

“The Blackpool community is like no other and the support we’ve had from locals and businesses has been overwhelming.

“Some gin makers have all kinds of funding to help them make their products however we have created and nurtured this ourselves without any support.

Jay (left) and Simon (right) with Jean-Christophe Novelli
Jay (left) and Simon (right) with Jean-Christophe Novelli (Image: Blackpool Rock Gin)

The collaboration between the two local lads is why the pink gin has proved so successful.

Simon is responsible for making the gin and handcrafts each and every batch himself and Jay brings the creative side to the business which is everything from the label on the bottle to the website.

As part of the original marketing of the gin, and inspired by the seaside, the pair managed to source some original Blackpool deck chairs and re-upholstered them in the brands colours to take pictures.

Since the offset the gin makers have set out to challenge the regular outlook of a start-up gin business and created a contemporary spirit that was fun and approachable that would bring new drinkers into the gin category.

In order to do this, Jay has always kept his finger on the pulse by keeping up with the latest trends, events and venues so the drink can be enjoyed by a full spectrum of visitors.

A fan of Star Wars, he didn’t miss a opportunity to mark May 4th this week by decanting his pink gin into a Storm Trooper bottle his nephew bought him – which made for a striking picture.

So much so the pair have been inundated with questions asking who designed the bottle. Although Jay didn’t, it would be something he’d love to do if it was made possible.

To celebrate 125 years of incredible innovation in the town and the birthday of Blackpool Pleasure beach, Blackpool Rock Gin also launched its ‘Limited Edition 125 Years London Dry Gin’ made from the premium 10 botanical base recipe.

Blackpool Rock Gin marked May 4 by decanting its product into a Storm Trooper bottle

Blackpool Rock Gin marked May 4 by decanting its product into a Storm Trooper bottle (Image: Blackpool Rock Gin)

This limited edition has 125 numbered bottles which have been designed and produced in its inaugural year.

Showcasing the true heart of Blackpool Rock gin, this version highlights the wonderful single source British spirit and the fantastic botanicals within it.

The original pink gin has found its way to places like Scotland and Brighton and even Jean-Christophe Novelli has enjoyed a tipple.

The recent pandemic has proved difficult, as it has for so many other businesses, however there are exciting new plans in place for the Blackpool gin including working with the team at Blackpool Rocks for their Blackpool Rock Returns event.

As always, Jay and Simon also have ideas for Blackpool inspired products to come and plans for tasting events.

For more information, please visit the Blackpool Rock Gin website here.

Pictures show Blackpool tram ‘graveyard’ hidden away on docklands with ‘chaotic’ interiors

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Fascinating photos taken by an urban explorer show what has become of some of Blackpool’s disused trams

Urban Explorer Kyle Urbex discovered the Blackpool tram "graveyard" in Fleetwood Haven Marina
Urban Explorer Kyle Urbex discovered the Blackpool tram “graveyard” in Fleetwood Haven Marina (Image: Instagram @Kyle_Urbex)

Fascinating pictures of what appears to be a “graveyard” of Blackpool trams have emerged thanks to an urban explorer who came to Fleetwood.

Kyle Urbex, 24, from Leeds discovered the vintage vehicles whilst exploring the docks area near Fleetwood Haven Marina.

The intriguing snapshots show a plethora of coloured trams appearing to be from different eras in progressive states of decay.

Some also sported artwork in relation to Blackpool Zoo, presumably a past destination and artwork of Professor Wilde.

The interiors of the trams were not so colourful however and appear to be in an awful rotted state with seats ripped up and piled high in some instances.

A pair of distinctive blue and yellow ‘Metro’ trams can also be seen with windows missing parked up next to a distinctive 710 ‘Metro Coastlines’ doubledecker.

Captured by Kyle, who works in a warehouse, the explorer only began pursuing his hobby around 11 months ago and has developed a knack for finding obscure places

So far he has visited over 300 obscure destinations around the UK and has even spanned the depths of Paris’ catacombs.

Kyle said: “I was attracted to this area because I know the people of Blackpool and Fleetwood are big fans of nostalgia which means there’s always potential to discover interesting things.

“I was aware that there was a security cabin not far away who knew I was there but I think they saw me on my own taking pictures so felt it was ok. I’m usually on my own when I explore as I find it a great way to escape and relax.

“I really wanted to capture the old trams and it was so sad as they had all fallen into a state of decay.

“Inside they were pretty chaotic but luckily they didn’t smell that bad as the windows were either open or missing.

“I managed to find some really cool old fashioned tram lights which looked very Blackpool.”

The site where the old trams are located are on private land and belong to the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust who endeavour to rehome their vehicles.

There was some fear among local people is that these beautiful locomotives would amount to nothing more than scrap.

Take a look at Kyle’s photos below. To see more of Kyle’s work, please visit his Instagram account @kyle_urbex.

How Blackpool Pleasure Beach has changed over the last 125 years

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Blackpool Pleasure Beach will open its gates on Monday – here’s a look back at the theme park over the years


How Blackpool Pleasure Beach has changed over the last 125 years (Image: Andrew Teebay/Liverpool Echo)

Interest in theme parks has surged online by 65 per cent in the past three months amid the third national lockdown – showing that people are eager to get back to the thrill of rides.

One renowned north west attraction that’s been sorely missed is Blackpool Pleasure Beach, with its fun of the fair and its host of entertainment and interaction experiences.

It’s set to reopen its gates on Monday, April 12 after outdoor attractions were given the green light to welcome back visitors as part of Step Two in the roadmap.

And while it’ll be a big day for Pleasure Beach, it will also be celebrating its 125th anniversary.

A lot has changed at the theme park over the years, and there are even more new experiences launching in 2021, reports LancsLive.

This includes Walk the Woodie, which is an escorted, guided walk of the track and lift hills of one of the park’s classic wooden roller coasters.

Skipping ahead to autumn, there will be a new ‘it’s Friday night’ event, which will see the park open from 4.30pm-9.30pm.

While the hub is also a new centre for park entertainment located in the middle of the grounds near the fountains, which will also welcome Oktoberfest in September.

To allow visitors next week, the amusement park has put in place a number of robust Covid-secure measures, such as limiting the number of guests, compulsory masks and temperature checks.

Here, our sister site LancsLive takes a look at the iconic history of the family-owned Pleasure Beach and its 125 seasons.

Vision of an American-style theme park

1890 – 1910

Alderman William George Bean founded Pleasure Beach in 1896 after being inspired to build an American-style amusement park.

He had ambitious plans to build a world-renowned attraction “to make adults feel like children again”.

In conjunction with partner John Outhwaite, A.W.G. Bean bought a 42-acre plot of land where the park still stands today.

The local businessman travelled extensively to bring new rides and ideas to Pleasure Beach.

He introduced the Hotchkiss Bicycle Railroad to the site in July 1896 and Sir Hiram Maxim’s Flying Machines and Noah’s Ark – which still stand today.

The Infamous Flying Machines are not only one of the oldest continuously working machines in the Blackpool Pleasure Beach but also in Europe.

125 years later A.W.G. Bean’s Creation has brought joy to millions of visitors of all ages and backgrounds.

Still thriving through the first World War

1910 – 1930

31st March 1936: Men painting the pleasure boats at Blackpool Boating Lake, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Lancashire, in preparation for the Easter holiday visitors

The outbreak of the first world war saw Pleasure Beach face many challenges.

The exporting of rides from the United States eventually ground to a halt and investment in the park stopped as a result of this and the mounting difficulties faced.

Always resilient through hard times however, Blackpool found a way to overcome problems.

Against the odds and due its unwavering popularity, the amusement park’s profits soared and it became one of the most prolific employers in the North West.

Escapism from war and handing down of the business

1930 – 1950

13th September 1939: Young evacuees from Manchester and Salford enjoying themselves on the aeroplane ride pretending to bomb Berlin, at Blackpool pleasure beach

Throughout the war years, Pleasure Beach remained open all year round.

Thousands of servicemen, evacuees and a wider population would come through its gates to briefly escape the burden of the world war around them.

So much so, signs around the park were written in Polish due to the number of Polish air force bases around the town at that time.

Once again, despite the turmoils of the external environment, this proved a great time of development for the park which started with the opening of Noah’s Ark and The Virginia Reel.

1923 also saw the introduction of a fast and modern ride like no other in the park. This was the Big Dipper which still operates today.

At the end of this prosperous decade for the theme park, W. G. Bean died in 1929. This is when Blackpool’s most well-established attraction was passed on to his son-in-law, Leonard Thompson.

Disney Inspiration and influx of rides

1950 -1960

Walt Disney himself came over to pay a visit (Image: Publicity Picture)

The company saw continued success under Thompson when there was an intensive period of development, including the building of the then modernistic Casino Building.

Inspired by Walt Disney’s penultimate amusement park, ‘Disneyland’, Leonard concentrated on introducing several groundbreaking rides including The Rollercoaster, The Pleasure Beach Express and the world-famous, twin-tracked coaster, The Grand National.

Returning the compliment, the Pleasure Beach became so world-renowned that Walt Disney himself came over to pay a visit.

The entrepreneur and animator came over to see it for himself and stated that he liked the fact it was a family park and that it was “a higher class of resort”.

This resulted in him granting permission for the company to use Alice in Wonderland as inspiration for a ride.

The second world war had seen a temporary holt in terms of the rides and attractions development however it soon saw a return to prominence with the opening of the highly regarded Wild Mouse wooden rollercoaster in 1958.

This was then followed by The Derby Racer in 1959 which carousel has 56 horses, each one hand-carved at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

Britain’s first commercial monorail and influx of popular rides

1960- 1970

During the 1960s, Britain’s first commercial Monorail was built along here with an explosion of new popular rides including the Monster, the Astro Swirl and the world’s longest Log Flume.

Visitors were also wowed by an enchanting trip through the Looking Glass on Alice in Wonderland; the Grand Prix and the popular Tea Cup ride .

Europe’s first 360-degree looping coaster and the UK’s only bobsleigh ride

1970- 1990

Geoffrey Thompson became Managing Director in 1976 and added several exciting and iconic rides to the pleasure beach.

These include the Steeplechase, opened by the racehorse Red Rum in 1977., then two years later, Europe’s first 360-degree looping coaster, the Revolution, which received huge acclaim.

This time also saw the introduction of the infamous The Big One – the tallest, fastest rollercoaster in the world at the time of its creation and the Avalanche – the UK’s only bobsleigh ride.

This remains the only bobsleigh rollercoaster in the country and in the year the British bobsleigh team were competing in the Winter Olympics, 1988, Avalanche opened and carried over one million passengers during the first year.

The world’s tallest, fastest rollercoaster

1990-2000

(Image: Graham Young)

In 1994 the Pepsi Max Big One opened at 235ft tall, meaning it was the world’s tallest and fastest rollercoaster of its time.

This was part of Geoffrey Thompson’s great legacy after he invested £12m in the gigantic ride.

The Big One changed the skyline of Blackpool’s seafront forever and attracted roller coaster superfans from all over the world.

Another UK first was also established around this time, the £2 million Ice Blast, which catapults riders 210 feet vertically into the air.

Expansion

2000-2020

Millions continued to be invested in the Pleasure Beach from the 2000s and beyond.

Over £3m was invested in new rides, enhancements and attractions.

The notorious Valhalla ride opened in 2000 after a massive £15m investment, the biggest amount up until that point.

This thrilling new ride was hailed as the biggest, most spectacular dark ride ever to be constructed by mankind.

The Big Blue Hotel opened its doors in 2002 offering luxury accommodation which also saw the 100th birthday of Chairman, Mrs L.D. Thompson. The 157-bedroom hotel has now established itself as one of the most popular hotels in Blackpool.

Sadly in 2004 Mrs L.D. Thompson M.B.E. J.P. and Geoffrey Thompson O.B.E. passed away and the company was passed to the Managing Director.

Amanda Thompson re-themed and refurbished the park and there has since been the introduction of Infusion – the world’s first rollercoaster suspended entirely over water, Nickelodeon Land, Red Arrows Skyforce and ICON – the UK’s first double launch rollercoaster costing £16.25m.

In 2019, the £12m Boulevard Hotel opened with 120 stylish rooms with views of the seafront or park, a 90-seat restaurant and state-of-the-art conference facilities.

The future and beyond

2021

Now the team at Blackpool Pleasure Beach is hard at work in order to re-open the gates on April 12 after a tumultuous 12 months.

Staff have used lockdown as an opportunity to improve and enhance visitor experiences for its well-loved guests down to replacing rollercoasters wheels and old pieces of track.

They have also implemented, and will maintain, a new unprecedented and enhanced deep cleaning regime to keep visitors Covid safe.

 

The Blackpool picture house that had everyone talking

Home | Blackpool Gazette

As plans for the Blackpool Central development are considered, Blackpool historian David Hewitt hears echoes of the King Edward cinema’s early days

King Edward Picture House, Blackpool
King Edward Picture House, Blackpool

Great things have been promised for the site of the old Central Station – hotels and restaurants, and Chariots of the Gods, a ‘flying theatre’ said to offer ‘an immersive and thrilling Edutainment experience unlike any other in the world.’

When the plans were first announced, council leader Simon Blackburn hailed them as a game-changer that would make Blackpool a world class tourist destination.

That seems to be the way with this site. We have already been promised the Snowdome, of course, and before that the super-casino, neither of which got off the ground. But a century before all that, it was a picture house that got everyone talking.

When the King Edward Cinema opened in July 1913, it was known as the Central Picture Theatre – a name that can still be seen picked out in cream terracotta on the great curved gable which rears up from Central Drive at the junction with Read’s Avenue. This was during the early days of silent cinema, and right from the start, the King Edward was billing itself as ‘the finest picture palace in Blackpool’.

The building’s façade would be preserved under the present plans, and possibly incorporated into an ‘artisan food hall’ on the south-east approach to the site. And that’s a relief, for with its Accrington brick and stone-coloured banding, its large Venetian window, its pilasters and checker-board pediment, the King Edward really is something special. Inside, there was a barrel-vaulted ceiling and plasterwork in the shape of leaves and flowers, although much of that is thought to have been destroyed when the building was converted into a restaurant in the 1980s.

The management of the King Edward was never backwards in coming forwards. Early advertisements describe it as the ‘prettiest and cosiest new theatre in Blackpool’. They also promise ‘1,000 tip-up seats’ alongside ‘all the latest and up-to-date films’ and ‘popular prices’.

But if this was one of the first purpose-built cinemas in Blackpool, it didn’t lack for competition. Films had been shown in the town for the last two decades, and there were already established halls such as the Colosseum on Tyldesley Road and the Royal Pavilion on Rigby Road, the Hippodrome on Church Street (which would become the ABC), the Tivoli in Talbot Square, the Princess on the Promenade and, across from the present-day Marks & Spencer store, the Clifton Palace. There were also cinemas in the Winter Gardens and on the Victoria (later South) Pier. Only a week later, the Imperial Picture Theatre would open up on Dickson Road. And while prices at the King Edward might have been popular, that didn’t stop them increasing. It was 3d or 6d for the stalls at first, 6d for the balcony. But the cheapest ticket would be fourpence before long, fivepence in no time at all. And anyone wanting to come in ‘early doors’ would have to pay even more.

Blackpool Hippodrome
Blackpool Hippodrome

There were showings in the evening and most afternoons, together with a special ‘sacred’ bill on Sundays. On those rare occasions when the weather was wet, there might even be a showing at 10.30 in the morning. And whatever the time of day, patrons were promised a ‘Great programme of all-star films’, with changes on Mondays and Thursdays.

The main film in the first few days showed the recent visit to Blackpool of King George V and Queen Mary, and the weeks which followed were packed with melodrama and thrills – Trial By Fire and On Fortune’s Wheel, Prisoner of the Harem and The Jockey of Death. The most popular performers at the King Edward were Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, but Norma Talmadge and Pauline Frederick could also be seen, Violet Hopson and Douglas Fairbanks, John Barrymore and Stewart Rome. There was even a film starring Miss Cecilia Loftus, who, a newspaper noted, ‘is so well known to Blackpool residents, having been educated at Layton Convent.’ Before long, though, ‘Cissie’ would be fleeing the country for good, dogged by ill-health, ugly rumour, and a criminal conviction for the possession of morphine.

The King Edward would prove itself a place of innovation. Special continuous performances were introduced, which patrons were promised would last for at least 2½ hours. There were twice-nightly showings, with different films in either house. A ‘King Edward Orchestra’ was formed. And the place even published its own magazine, printed on pages of blue, bound between covers of black and orange.

On the day the Great War broke out, those inside the King Edward were watching In the Wolves’ Fangs. But in a place named for a monarch, the conflict couldn’t help but loom large. Most war films would be shown there, including The Battle of the Somme in October 1916, and man known as ‘Ex-Gunner 537’ would treat audiences to his Battlefield Pictures, a collection of lantern slides as well as films, which promised ‘Living Incidents of the Great European War. Pictures that will make you think.’ Later, a benefit concert was given in the presence of the Mayor and Mayoress, Alderman and Mrs Lindsay Parkinson, culminating in a stirring address from none other than Harry Lauder. (It was two shillings in the balcony for that one.) Benefit concerts were common at the King Edward. One held in aid of Victoria Hospital featured a Beethoven sonata and Mr Tom Kimberley reciting The Death of Nelson. There was ‘a capital rendering’ of Our Sailor King by Miss Ethel Reeve, who was known as ‘The Singing Nurse’. And the Blackpool Orpheus Ladies’ Choir and the Blackpool Male Voice Choir joined forces for Comrades in Arms and the Soldier’s Farewell.

The old Central Station, Blackpool
The old Central Station, Blackpool

As fighting still raged on the Somme, a party of staff from the King Edward made an excursion to Ingleton, where, in very unseasonable weather, they enjoyed a six-course dinner, before returning home via Garstang (where they enjoyed a six-course tea). The party was augmented by staff from the Waterloo Picture House on Waterloo Road. The King Edward was managed jointly with the Waterloo, which it slightly resembled, and advertisements of the time call the two of them ‘The People’s Popular Picture Houses’ and ‘The Cinemas of Distinction’.

But if the halls were treated alike, the same couldn’t always be said for their respective patrons. When ‘the eminent soprano’ Miss Lilian Beaumont was engaged to perform at the King Edward, she was withheld from patrons of the Waterloo, who were shown Adventures Among the Cannibals instead.

Eventually, a benefit even had to be held for one of the cinema’s own. John Taylor Jones had been the assistant manager, before he joined up and was sent to France. And lately, he had been wounded on the Western Front. This concert, too, featured songs, recitals and speeches, and in the interval, Mr Jones was helped up onto the stage to receive the acclaim of the packed audience.

By now, the manager of the King Edward was John Beck, who lived near Devonshire Square, and whose early tenure had been marked by a very special event. On 14 April 1917, Mr Beck married his sweetheart, Annie Singleton (née Taylor) who lived in Lune Grove. The wedding took place at St Paul’s church in Marton, and the bride wore a wine-coloured dress coat with ‘picture hat’ to match, and carried a spray of roses and lilies of the valley. Mr Jones was a guest at the ceremony, where the best man was the assistant manager of the Waterloo Picture House. And after returning from honeymoon in Colwyn Bay, Mr Beck lost no time in assuring his patrons that, contrary to rumours that had been sweeping the Fylde, and indeed the country, Mary Pickford was not dead. Ms Pickford would go on making films for years, and the King Edward would show many of them. John Jones eventually succeeded Mr Beck as manager. But after the Second World War, as the competition grew even more intense, the cinema turned to ‘second-run’ films, and to ‘B’ films shown with comedies from an earlier age – Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd alongside Old Mother Riley and the Crazy Gang.

Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin

The King Edward closed its doors in the Seventies, to be succeeded by a bingo hall, by that restaurant – The Village – and finally by a succession of nightclubs and bars. David Hewitt is a lawyer and a writer. His last book – Joseph, 1917 – told the true story of a Thornton man who got caught up in the Great War. His next one – Anything But Silent – is about another early film, which scandalised half of Lancashire.

 

Blackpool Carnival is cancelled for second year running

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Blackpool Carnival has been cancelled for the second year running due to the pandemic.

 

The Blackpool Carnival has been cancelled for a second year running
The Blackpool Carnival has been cancelled for a second year running

Organisers for the free two-day event said they have tried to delay the announcement but said the show must be cancelled again.

It was scheduled to take at the end of July at the Waterloo Headland but will now be rescheduled for 2022.

Geoff Moore, chair, of the Blackpool Carnival Community Interest Company, said he was sad to see this year’s event scrapped.

He said: “We know how popular this event would be, especially at the end of an horrific period for us all and we would do anything possible for us all locally to work together and organise a tremendous party to get rid of all the pent up frustration at not being with each other over the last year or so.

“However, again we have to weigh up the positives against the negatives and as with the other major local events, we have to act responsibly for the good of us all and taking into account the easing of the lockdown measures and the vaccination programme that is certainly helping enormously with the fight against this horrendous virus, yet we can’t ignore the fact that there is still so much uncertainty regarding the staging of outside events that attract thousands of people.

“We shall be organising a much bigger Santa Clause Drive Around in December and so please keep checking the social media pages for details and hopefully next year will be third time lucky and the Blackpool Carnival will be going ahead and if you want to participate in any way, either personally or as part of a group or organisation, please don’t hesitate to contact us, tell all your friends and colleagues.”

100-year-old Blackpool cinema to reopen with major refurb after surviving Covid lockdowns

LancsLive - Latest news, sport, business and more from Lancashire

The Regent cinema has received a new stage, new screen and furnishings during lockdown

The Regent Cinema on Church Street in Blackpool
The Regent Cinema on Church Street in Blackpool (Image: Regent Cinema)

An independent cinema in Blackpool has managed to survive the coronavirus pandemic and is set to re-open its doors for its 100th year.

The Regent Cinema, located in the heart of the town centre on Church Street, first opened in 1921 and boasted 1092 seats and a retractable roof.

It was a popular cinema for decades before being used as a bingo hall in 1969.

In 2016 however the building was reclaimed and re-stored to become an independent cinema once again.

During one of its toughest times and longest spells closed due to coronavirus restrictions, the picture house has received a re-vamp including a new stage, new screen and some new dressings.

Renovation work carried out in 2016 when the building was reclaimed as an independent cinema
Renovation work carried out in 2016 when the building was reclaimed as an independent cinema (Image: The Regent Cinema)

Owner Richard Taylor told Lancs Live: “The pandemic has been tough and we don’t want to go through that again but we’ve come out the other side.

“All our staff are returning and we’ve been working hard on some refurbishments including a new stage that can be hired out, a brand new screen and some nice smaller furnishings like brand new curtains.”

The cinema wasn’t able to celebrate its 100th anniversary back in January due to being closed however in the summer, if the UK roadmap out of lockdown goes well, there will be a special occasion to mark the event.

The Regent’s antique’s centre was able to re-open however on Monday April 12 and on May 21 there will be a showing of the classic Tarantino film, Pulp Fiction, the first film screened when it was first re-claimed as an independent cinema.

Inside the Regent Cinema in Blackpool
Inside the Regent Cinema in Blackpool (Image: Regent Cinema, Blackpool)

Richard added: “It was a shame that we couldn’t celebrate the 100th anniversary properly however the stage will really mark a hundred years and if all goes well we can celebrate officially in the summer.

“We just want to welcome people back for now and let them know that though we have made some changes the character of the cinema still remains!”

To find out more about the re-opening of the Regent Cinema, please visit here.

Nostalgic Blackpool pictures of The Beatles, Cliff Richard and escapologist’s wedding at 400ft

 

LancsLive - Latest news, sport, business and more from Lancashire

We take a trip down memory lane and look at some of Blackpool’s memorable moments over the last century

The Beatles before playing the Opera House Blackpool 16 August 1964.
The Beatles before playing the Opera House Blackpool 16 August 1964.

Blackpool has a long and amazing history.

For centuries the town was a hamlet by the sea until the 18th century when visits to seaside towns became fashionable – attracting hundreds of people to the area.

For over 100 years the town has had an unique sense of pride and history and an unbreakable bond with the British public.

Always one for firsts, when Blackpool Tower was built in 1891 it was the tallest man-made structure in the British empire.

As well as visiting the tower and having a picture taken with it, holidaymakers and visitors to the resort over the years have enjoyed a host of attractions including Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Coral Island, Blackpool Zoo, Madame Tussauds and more.

While food has often attracted people to the area from cockle and mussle stands in the Victorian era to Harry Ramsden’s famous fish and chips today.

The world’s first permanent electric street tramway also debuted in Blackpool in 1885 – much to the delight of locals and visitors from near and far.

Both the Pleasure Beach and the illuminations have survived two world wars and offered some escapism for visitors from the circumstances around them.

From the 1950s Blackpool has attracted many superstars and celebrities from the Beatles to Cliff Richard.

While Blackpool has also hosted political events including Labour and Conservative party conferences – with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher attending in the 1980s.

In recent times however the coronavirus pandemic has given Blackpool it’s toughest challenge yet and the nature of its hospitality and tourism industry has had to change and adapt.

Here at LancsLive, we reveal 30 amazing pictures that show what Blackpool has looked like throughout the decades and some of the famous faces who have enjoyed a trip to this wonderful town.