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Blackpool is one of the most long-standing seaside resorts in the UK.
From the mid 1800s, the infrastructure of Blackpool transformed to cater for the influx of people travelling from around the UK to this seaside town. Blackpool was and is still regarded as a hotspot of entertainment, recognised country-wide for its entertainment venues such as the Blackpool Tower, the Blackpool Grand Theatre and the Winter Gardens. From ballroom dancing to comedy shows and the promenade, there are seaside attractions galore.
The Comedy Carpet in particular is seen as a cultural landmark of the seaside town, which pays homage to Blackpool’s comedy, music halls and entertainment heritage. The comedy scene in Blackpool has been epitomised by the Comedy Carpet, a vast artistic display that stretches along the shoreline.
Since the mid 1900s, Blackpool has been a hub for comedy, welcoming the late great household names as well as the hottest names in comedy to this day. We take a little look at the history of comedy and entertainment in Blackpool, how it all began and delve into what comedy revellers can expect from a trip to the seaside today.
Explore our upcoming comedy shows at Blackpool Grand
History of Blackpool Grand Theatre
- Blackpool Grand Theatre first opened in 1894. It took 9 months to build and was built by Matcham. Often referred to as Matcham’s masterpiece, it cost £20,000 at the time and remains one of the leading Heritage theatres in the UK. Saved from demolition in 1972, it was listed as a Grade II Listed Building and was saved from becoming a bingo hall in 1975. Funding and help from Friends of the Grand ensured its survival, demonstrating how the theatre was seen as a vital part of the seaside town’s rich cultural history.
- The Heritage Initiative saw it refurbished in 2006. Visitors can expect to enjoy the baroque ceiling and organ plasterwork from the time, lavishly decorated and detailed and still a joy for all who visit the Grand.
- The first summer season show was held in 1940. Blackpool Grand Theatre is seen as a variety venue, hosting roadshows and stage shows, as well as a host of comedians, actors and singers.
- During World War Two, the Grand Theatre continued to offer a haven for performers, and during this time the theatre hosted visitors including Flora Robson, Robert Donat and Emlyn Williams.
Explore more about the history of Blackpool below:
History of Comedy at Blackpool Grand Theatre
Comedy in the 1950s in Blackpool was attracting city-dwellers constantly, with Danny Ross, Freddie Flinton, Sid James (famous for his work in the Carry On series) and Hylda Baker all firm favourites to the city.
Alongside building a name for itself for first-class actors and dramatists, the Grand was building prestige for its entertainment value, too. Comedy favourites of this time period included Arthur Askey, Thora Hird, Glenn Melvyn, Danny Ross, Hylda Baker, Freddie Frinton, Sid James and Jack Douglas. All visited the Grand Theatre throughout the 50s and 60s, helping build a name for the seaside town as a popular entertainment venue that still stands today.
The iconic heritage building offers a nostalgic night out, full of laughs, and has forever proved a popular comedy venue over the decades. Blackpool Grand Theatre is still a leading entertainment venue, hosting some of Britain’s most popular comedians and comedy favourites this season including Jason Manford and Julian Clary.
Steve Royle at Blackpool Grand Theatre
Steve Royle, a much-loved comedian, comes to Blackpool Grand Theatre to star in a ‘Royle’ Variety Performance. Suitable for families and people of all ages, you can catch Steve Royle at the Grand this October. With comedy credits including Pheonix Nights, Peter Kay’s Britain’s Got the Pop Factor, and Paddy’s Road To Nowhere, it’s certainly one you won’t want to miss!
How television changed comedy
From sitcoms to stand-up comedy shows and sketch comedy, the popularity of television comedy in the 60s and 70s changed the landscape of the entertainment industry. Many entertainment venues and theatres were forced to close and were unable to continue with show runs thanks to television becoming the market leader. However, despite the growing impact television had, live entertainment still played a vital role in the entertainment sector. The summer season took precedent at the Grand, with some winter seasons discontinued due to the lack of shows and ticket sales.
Morecombe and Wise: The Blackpool Connection
Many people can’t help but think of Morecombe and Wise when they think about Blackpool. With links to Blackpool spanning 36 years, the duo spent time at seven of Blackpool’s theatres and had a run of six summer season shows. First appearing in 1940, they were merely teenagers! They weren’t the iconic duo we all know and love today but rather individual acts. They were both touring in a show at the old Palace Theatre, on a tour called Youth Takes a Bow. Little did the audience know that Eric Batholemew and Ernest Wiseman would return as a double act nearly ten years later in 1949. Referred to as a couple of ‘young funsters’, the Blackpool Gazette commented on their promising style.
Their theatre success seemed to exceed their television success, as their theatre performances throughout the 1950s were received far better than their first television series, which flopped in 1954. They appeared at the Blackpool Opera House before the 1955 season and appeared in the 1959 Centre pier show. They returned four years later to the Blackpool summer scene, now household names in comedy. Their face-to-face comedy was revered by audiences around the UK by the time they appeared at the ABC Theatre in Blackpool in 1965. 1973 saw their last visit to Blackpool, attending to the Opera House, a full 36 years after their first appearance on the Blackpool scene.
Their connections to Blackpool were so strong that a Morecombe and Wise statue was unveiled in 2016 in what they called their ‘spiritual home’. In fact, Eric Morecombe’s surname is a stage name, taken from his birthplace in Morecombe Lancashire!
Comedy venues in Blackpool
Blackpool Grand Theatre is host to come of the most popular comedians in the UK, and you can enjoy a hilarious night out with some of your favourite acts this season. For the latest upcoming comedy shows in Blackpool, check out our comedy roundup for upcoming comedy shows in Blackpool in the coming weeks and months! Don’t miss out and discover your comedy favourites at one of the most loved venues in Blackpool. Other venues that will help you get your fill might include Viva Blackpool, The Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club and Comedy Station Comedy Club.
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For more information about Blackpool and all things comedy, head to our blog for more. Explore our upcoming comedy shows in Blackpool and see what all the fuss is about for an unforgettable night out!
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