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Happy Birthday To Us: The Grand Is Still Young At 120!

The Theatre first opened its doors on 23 July 1894, having been built by the leading Victorian architect Frank Matcham. It still remains as one of the few surviving examples of his work.

The Grand Theatre has hosted a multitude of stars since its opening, from Lily Langtree to Michael Macintyre, Gracie Fields to Ken Dodd, Arthur Askey to Lee Evans…and the list goes on!

Over the 120 years, The Grand has attracted the very best in award-winning touring companies, including The National Theatre, English Touring Theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Company, Opera and Ballet International and the Russian State Ballet.

As well as presenting a programme of quality drama, comedy, dance and children’s theatre, The Grand plays host to the outstanding talents of local performers from groups across Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde.

Ruth Eastwood, Chief Executive said,

“120 years on from first opening its doors, The Grand still remains at the heart of the community, offering people of Blackpool, Wyre, Fylde and the Region the very best in touring productions, as well as opportunities to participate, experience and learn through theatre.”

Tony Stone, Chairman of the Grand Theatre Arts and Entertainment Board said,

“Having been involved in The Grand for several years, I believe there is no better way to celebrate the anniversary than with our most exciting and forward-looking programme, which is delighting the community, as well as providing a vibrant attraction for visitors to our town.”

Geoff and Linda Tolson, The Grand’s honourary archivists said,

“Visits from The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Edward were a great honour but we also recall the first visit of The National Theatre with a production of Hiawatha, every seat taken by a rowdy audience for The Rocky Horror Show and the World Premiere of Northern Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet.  It is also hard to match the thrill when the newly restored ceiling was revealed in 2002. The Grand is a bridge from the golden age of Blackpool to the rejuvenating town of today.  It is a symbol of civic pride in our heritage and commitment to an exciting future.”

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.

The Friends celebrate the 120th Birthday with a very special event The 120th Birthday Tea with the Stars on Saturday 26th July. Tickets are still available and can be purchased online at http://www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk/shows/performance/120th-birthday-tea-with-the-stars  or call Box Office on 01253 290 190.

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