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Gone With the Wind almost!

Blackpool Grand Theatre boasts one of the most beautiful interiors of any theatre in the world. But keeping it that way involves a constant battle with the elements.

Storm Doris hit the Fylde Coast in February and very nearly brought the house down – but not in the way the Grand Theatre might have hoped for. In fact it blew some heavy slates off the roof to the east end of the building, smashing them on to Church Street below and allowing heavy rain to cascade into the theatre underneath. Lancashire Fire and Rescue were quickly on the scene and helped secure the roof so that no further damage was caused.

It left the theatre’s voluntary trustees with a problem as the roof was inaccessible, so a full assessment of the damage and repairs could not be undertaken without erecting scaffolding.

Once the storm abated, a full survey was completed by conservations, Ivan Wilson Architects (IWA). The state of the roof was worse than expected – parts of it probably hadn’t been touched since it was built in the early 1890’s. Lead flashing had failed, a steel beam had completely corroded, cast iron gutters and downpipes had been broken or replaced with plastic, brickwork was bulging, and slates were cracked or missing.

It was IWA’s recommendation that the roof should be completely stripped back and then rebuilt from scratch. This would bring this part of the building back to its original glory using, as far as possible, the materials that were employed in the original construction.

It has taken over £50,000 and seven months of dedicated planning and work by a team of craftsmen led by Alan Mylecraine of Singleton and Smart, but, finally, the scaffolding has come down revealing the restored building beneath.

Roger Lloyd Jones, chairman of the Blackpool Grand Theatre volunteer trustees, commented, “It is a privilege to have the opportunity to protect this wonderful theatre for future generations.
“Sadly, it is a constant battle with the elements and all the money for these emergency repairs has to come out of our own reserves.

“We don’t receive any public funding for the upkeep of the building, so, as the theatre gets older, we are relying more and more on donations and the fundraising of the Friends of the Grand.”

The Grand has recently launched the #PlayYourPart campaign to encourage people to think about supporting the theatre by making a donation or by leaving a legacy.

If you’d like to make a one-off donation to the Grand Theatre you can go to the website blackpoolgrand.co.uk/donations or if you’d like to set up a regular donation, look at the Charity Aid Foundation (CAF)’s Long-Term Giving.
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 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.

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