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Heritage Open Day At The Grand Theatre

Blackpool’s Grand Theatre will be throwing open its doors to enthusiasts of architecture, theatre and history for a FREE behind the scenes tour of the ‘hidden gem of the North’.

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

The Grand Theatre has hosted a multitude of stars since its opening, from Lillie Langtree to Gracie Fields and John Gielgud to David Tennant.

Blackpool Grand Theatre’s Heritage Open Day leads with ‘Think You Know The Grand Theatre?’ and aims to provide a greater insight into the iconic Blackpool building and its heritage.

The Heritage Open Day national focus is on Extraordinary Women and Blackpool’s Grand will host a special exhibition dedicated to highlighting stars who have performed at the theatre Including; Sarah Bernhardt, Gracie Fields, Dawn French who have performed on The Grand stage.

The highlight of the Extraordinary Women exhibition has to be the visit on 22 July 1994 on the eve of The Grand’s centenary by Her Majesty The Queen (and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh).

Her Majesty was escorted to the Stalls for an opportunity to view the Theatre and see a dress rehearsal for the Centenary Gala to be held the following evening. After the rehearsal an informal meeting of some of the artists. Her Majesty then had the opportunity to view a small display of archive materials of the theatre’s history.

An additional special exhibition will take place curated by Ken Bowe, who was a passionate supporter of the theatre and performed many times at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre.

Over the 124 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.

Heritage Open Days give people the opportunity to delve into areas not normally open or available to the general public in a variety of private homes, castles, follies, industrial sites, churches, and Blackpool’s very own Grand Theatre! Nationally, over 1,400 organisations and some 40,000 volunteers organise thousands of site openings and events, jointly attracting over 1 million visitors.

This year visitors will be able to wander round and explore Blackpool’s Grand for free, with opportunities to catch a glimpse behind the scenes of the theatre, view the extensive archive collection and explore the auditorium, taking in the enchanting décor and decorative Matcham features.

Geoff and Linda Tolson, The Grand’s honorary archivists said, ‘It’s that time of the year when Blackpool celebrates its heritage by opening its hidden gems for locals and visitors alike to marvel at the range of Blackpool’s cultural diversity.

‘Once again the Grand Theatre is proud to be a part of the annual Heritage Open Day scheme.  A working theatre has rare opportunities to invite the public to wander round and explore.  Heritage Guides will be on hand to help you to enjoy your visit to Matcham’s Masterpiece and there will be displays from the theatre’s archive collections.’

Andrew Howard, Marketing Manager for Blackpool’s Grand said, ‘Blackpool’s Grand boasts a rich history, having been designed by the leading Victorian architect Frank Matcham in 1894, and described by the first theatre manager Thomas Sergenson as ‘Matcham’s Masterpiece’. This title is even more merited now, as there are few surviving examples of the work of Frank Matcham.

‘Not many people know the theatre took just nine months to build and cost Sergenson £20,000, part of which he had earned by operating two small rented theatres and from a circus that he staged for five summer seasons on the site of The Grand.

‘Why not step back in time for the day and discover the beauty, architecture and history of the stunning Grand Theatre.’

The Grand Theatre’s Heritage Open Day will take place on Sunday 9 September from 11am to 4pm.