4 min read
It was a very special year for Blackpool Grand Theatre as it celebrated its 125th anniversary.
Over the last year the theatre has seen a host of star-studded events, record audience figures and played host to some of the UK’s top West End plays.
The theatre has also taken on a major fundraising campaign to help fund repair work to the iconic Grade II* listed building.
To celebrate the landmark year, Blackpool Grand began with a special anniversary event in January which saw more than 350 people from across the country attend, including a host of celebrities such as Coronation Street star Lucy Fallon, Tom Lister, formerly of Emmerdale and ex EastEnders actress, Cheryl Fergison.
Following this, the theatre held a special birthday party event later in the year for the Friends of The Grand, who helped save the theatre. In the late 70’s and 80’s the Friends fundraised to buy the building from E.M.I who were using it as a bingo hall, and reopened Blackpool Grand as a centre for the arts in 1980. They have since played a pivotal role in supporting and fundraising for the Theatre ever since.
The celebratory events culminated in a Royal visit in October with Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex GCVO coming to the Blackpool Grand to meet some of the key people who have helped restore and operate the resort’s iconic building.
Some of the highlights in terms of shows this year included the Theatre hosting the Woman in Black, a spine-tingling drama which has been a huge West End hit and Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, starring Susan Penhaligon. This year Blackpool Grand also launched their own production company, Blackpool Grand Productions Limited, and created their own summer show, Around the World in 80s Days. The show was developed to both raise the profile of the Theatre and to celebrate the 125th birthday. It was a huge critical success.
Throughout the year Blackpool Grand has also been looking to raise money to help repair the building. The famous dome suffered considerable damage in 2017, when Storm Doris came to Blackpool’s shores, work is needed to reinstate the roof to its original condition and further funds are needed to improve the theatre itself.
Blackpool Grand set the target of raising £125,000 and has run a number of fundraising activities, from special events, selling limited edition 125 Rose Gold Lapel Badges, running a year-long raffle and offering a pay what you feel for certain shows during the year, with the proceeds going to the Blackpool Grand charity.
All the work so far has seen a sum of £107,000 raised, which means the team has almost hit its target of funds for carrying out the vital repair work. However, they still need to reach the final figure and are looking for people to help support through online donations, or even simply attending some of Blackpool Grand’s shows, such as the fabulous Peter Pan panto last year.
Ruth Eastwood, chief executive at Blackpool Grand, added: “It has been an incredible year, with some fantastic events, fundraising, shows and even a royal visit. We wanted to make it a memorable 125th anniversary and it really has been.”
Looking ahead to 2020, the theatre has some fantastic shows lined up including the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) running a triple bill of performances over the next year, the global sensation and multi-award winning dance show BalletBoyz returning in March and Willy Russell’s Educating Rita, starring Stephen Thompkinson, showing between the 16 and 21 March.
Other highlights include family show, Holes coming to Blackpool in May. Holes is based on the multi-award-winning novel and the Hollywood blockbuster and has been developed with the Children’s Theatre Partnership. Also, in May Breakin’ Convention comes to Blackpool Grand, the world’s ground-breaking festival of hip hop dance.
Ruth said: “Next year we are delighted to highlight some of the best UK touring productions in drama and dance. Comedy is also playing its part with the likes of Rob Beckett, Count Arthur Strong, Josh Widdicombe, Julian Clarey, Ed Burn and Jack Dee to name a few headliners.”
To find out more about What’s On at Blackpool Grand and the fundraising activities, click here.
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