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Friends New Chair Announced

The meeting was well attended and marked the occasion of 45 years of Friends of The Grand.

The new Chair of the Friends of The Grand will be John Grady.

John Grady has been an active member of The Friend’s holding the position of Volunteer Co-ordinator, Treasurer and Vice Chair.  Of his appointment he said ‘I am honoured to be voted Chairman of the Friends at the Annual General Meeting.  I will make it my goal to continue the good work, grow the membership and support the theatre’.

Roger Lloyd Jones, Blackpool Grand Theatre Trust Chairman said of the appointment ‘John Grady represents the Friends of The Grand on the Grand Theatre Trust Board.  I have, therefore, worked closely with him and seen the excellent work and huge contributions he makes to the theatre family.’

Ruth Eastwood, Blackpool Grand Theatre (Arts and Entertainment) Chief Executive who works closely with The Friends and their volunteers who provide over 13,000hours of time to the theatre added ‘John’s hard work and passion for the Grand Theatre, plus his experience as Treasurer over the last years make him an ideal candidate for the job’.

Over the last twenty-five years The Friends have contributed more than 1.7 million pounds towards projects including the provision of new carpets, seating and technical equipment. In 2015 The Friends provided huge help and support with the theatre’s Capital Project and in 2016 they purchased the shops under The Grand to restore the theatre building to Frank Matcham’s original footprint.

Previous Chair, John Buck who resigned due to ill health was one of the original group who raised the money to save the theatre from demolition in 1973.  He, along with other passionate and dedicated Friends, cleaned, repaired and painted in their spare time to get the building back on its feet ready for its reopening and dedication from HRH The Prince of Wales in 1981.  He became Chair in of The Friends in 2002, after the death of the previous incumbent George Thomson. The Friends organisation now has over 1,700 members.

It was back in 1981, when The Friends purchased the Grade II* listed building from the then owners, EMI.  However, crucially, the purchase did not include the row of shops below the dress circle on Church Street.  Since then, one of the main goals of The Friends was to purchase the shops under The Grand and return the theatre to its original footprint. John was delighted to have seen this come to fruition.

He said at the time ‘We were invited to buy the shops back in the 1990sbut, back then, the owners wanted more than a million pounds for them and we thought we’d never be able to raise that much.  And we were right! Obviously, times have changed, and, thankfully, we’ve been able raise enough to buy them for less than half that price!’.

John said of his resignation ‘It is with regret that I am offering my resignation as Chair of The Friends’, due to recent illness and ‘with regret’, ‘I offer my resignation’.

John finished by saying ‘Being Chair has been a large part of my life of which I have enjoyed every minute, in fact I’m already missing all of you. Carry on the good work’.

Amanda Thompson OBE, Patron of the Grand Theatre, Managing Director at Blackpool Pleasure Beach added ‘It is with a huge amount of pride that I find myself writing about the wonderful services John Buck has shown the Grand Theatre.

‘He has championed the Friends of the Grand for as long as I can remember. He has shown with passion and dedication that you truly can make a difference and raise the money that is needed to continuously support this wonderful theatre. He has dedicated his life to this cause and shown us all how special this lovely building is to our town and the community. We can take our hats off to him and bow down in gratitude. Thank you, John, for your dedication and leadership of the Friends of the Grand and raising so much money that has been gratefully received and so well invested.

John Buck will be sadly missed and Blackpool’s Grand Theatre welcomes The Friends new Chair John Grady.