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Blackpool Grand CEO Says, ‘Thank You’ For The Love And Loyalty Of Local People And The Passion And Dedication Of Its Staff, Partners And Volunteers’
After eight years as Chief Executive, Ruth Eastwood will be leaving Blackpool Grand Theatre in early 2022 to return to her freelance career.
Before coming to Blackpool, Ruth’s career included being CEO of Curve Theatre in Leicester, Lighthouse in Poole plus Darlington Civic Theatre and Arts Centre. As a freelancer, she was also interim CEO of Colchester Mercury and Salisbury Theatres.
During her time at The Grand, supported by trustees, volunteers and a dedicated staff team, she has overseen a £1m capital development programme to improve and extend the theatre’s facilities; grown the creative learning department which now works with thousands of children, young people and community groups across Blackpool and beyond; and commissioned the organisation’s first in-house production, Around the World in 80s Days, as the centrepiece of the theatre’s 125th Anniversary celebrations. Since the theatre was forced to shut its doors, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she has secured more than £1m of financial support to invest in rebuilding the business and re-opening later this year.
Eastwood said ‘it has been a privilege to lead this wonderful organisation and work in the beautiful Grand Theatre since 2013. The Grand is built on the love and loyalty of local people and runs on the passion and dedication of its staff, partners, and volunteers. Now, as the country slowly recovers from the impact of the pandemic and things return to something like normal, I am proud to be able to pass on an organisation that is in a strong position to bounce back and continue to offer opportunities for people to enjoy, participate and learn through theatre for many more years to come’.
Anthony Stone, Blackpool Grand Theatre (Arts and Entertainment) Chair, said ‘Ruth has been a great asset to the Grand Theatre, and a delight to work with. Our successes over the period of her tenure have been numerous and our profile within the industry, and particular with the Creative Learning projects, has garnered national attention. Ruth is highly respected, and we wish her all the best for the future.’
Roger Lloyd Jones, Grand Theatre Trust Chair, said ‘The Trustees are very grateful for the support provided by Ruth during her time with us. Thanks to her vision and leadership we have enjoyed many successes, including the conceiving and delivery of an award-winning major Capital Works Programme and a wonderful 125 Birthday celebration which included a Royal Visit. I thank her greatly and wish her well.’
Eastwood’s Team was informed of the news and echoed the Chair’s sentiments. ‘Ruth has made an incredible contribution over the years to secure the future of our venue and its upkeep, we are all very grateful for her leadership through some very challenging years. We still have great plans together rebuilding but she will be greatly missed.’
A recruitment process to find a successor will begin in the next few months.
Cultural Recovery Fund
Culture Recovery Fund – Blackpool Grand among more than 2,700 recipients to benefit from the latest round of awards from the £1.57 billion Fund. Blackpool Grand was granted two CRF bids (one in each, CRF1 2020 and CRF2 2021) to help the organisation recover and reopen.
More than £300 million has been awarded to thousands of cultural organisations across the country including Blackpool Grand in the latest round of support from the Culture Recovery Fund, the Culture Secretary announced.
Ruth Eastwood, Blackpool Grand Chief Executive said: “We are delighted to receive this grant from the Government Treasury and Arts Council England Cultural Recovery Fund. It will allow us to prepare to reopen and, if all goes well, be trading again from the Autumn.
“It cannot be underestimated, the devastation Covid has caused for so many: our patrons; our employees, past and present; and our organisation. We have been forced to cut costs to protect the business, including reducing the staff to the bare minimum. With this support, we will be able to, rebuild, recruit and buy in ‘product’ ready to start afresh.
Blackpool Grand Theatre – Arts Council England, National Portfolio Funding
In July 2014 the Arts Council England granted the Grand Theatre continued funding for the next three years to support and develop a programme of dance and physical theatre. Despite substantial cuts to many theatres, The Grand was one of only a handful of organisations that saw its National Portfolio Organisation funding increase by 37%. The Arts Council’s National Portfolio Organisations represent some of the best arts practise in the world, and they play a vital role in helping ACE meet their mission of great art and culture for everyone. ACE is determined to fund organisations at a level at which they can continue to produce the excellent and innovative art that audiences want and deserve.
Blackpool’s Grand Theatre – Heritage and History
The Grand Theatre was opened on July 23, 1894, by Thomas Sergenson who immediately dubbed the theatre ‘Matcham’s Masterpiece’. This title is even more merited now that there are few surviving examples of the work of Frank Matcham, the leading Victorian theatre architect. The theatre took just nine months to build and cost Sergenson £20,000. By the early 1960s theatres across Britain were closing due to the loss of audience to television and in July 1972 the then owners, the Tower Company, applied for permission to demolish it. In its place, they proposed to build a department store. However, by then, following an application to the Department of the Environment, the theatre had been listed as a Grade II* building and there had to be a full public enquiry. Early in 1973, the Friends of the Grand was formed and after legal and financial wrangling, they, together with EMI and the local council, put together a deal involving leasing the theatre for £10,000 per annum and final purchase for £250,000.
For further information on Blackpool Grand Theatre visit: www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk
Marketing Department, Grand Theatre, 33 Church Street, Blackpool FY1 1HT
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