Fruit topping for a birthday treat
A famous seaside celebrity celebrates their 125th birthday this year . . . by buying themselves
a new ‘hat’. DAVID UPTON explains
The Grand Theatre in Blackpool has its milestone birthday in July this year and to mark the occasion, and best preserve its future, it has set itself a target of raising £125,000 to repair and restore its distinctive landmark dome – and put a ‘fresh’ pineapple back on top.
The tropical topping is a symbol of hospitality but took a battering from the less than welcome Storm Desmond back in 2015. So the Grand, which is a charitable not-for-profit venue
(despite popular misconceptions that it is council or privately owned) has set itself an anniversary challenge.
After all, a theatre generally agreed to be the prettiest in the country deserves to be looking her very best again. The launch of the venue’s new programme for the year was the ideal occasion to set the ball rolling, and to get a couple of cheques coming in, including one from the indefatigable Friends of the Grand. This is the volunteer army of fundraisers, ticket collectors, usherettes and other behind-the-scenes toilers who have helped ensure the theatre’s survival against the considerable odds stacked up for a Victorian entertainment attraction prospering in the modern age.
Nowadays it’s much more than a Grade II listed eyecatcher, indoors and out. Besides an impressive roster of year-round stage attractions for a seaside venue, its educational arm runs a
full programme of workshops for children and young people.
Last year, 10,000 school children benefited from discounted tickets to see performances at the theatre. A further 3,000 actually performed on stage, and 30 local schools are involved in a project with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
This year 125 local young people will also be winners of the ‘gold dust tickets’ for an appearance in May by Sir Ian Mckellen. To mark his own significant birthday he’s touring 80 theatres around the UK and donating all proceeds to their own benefit. Tickets have sold out around the country.
That’s just one of several special events throughout a year which include celebration open days taking visitors backstage, productions from the Royal Shakespeare Company, National Dance Company of Wales, a Grand Theatre history timeline on show inside the adjacent Hounds Hill shopping centre, even a 125 Pantomime Special performance of Peter
Pan, starring comedian and
Radio Lancashire celebrity Steve Royle – making his 17th annual appearance in the traditional end-of-year offering.
Blackpool lass Jodie Prenger also plays a home fixture when she stars as Beverley, the 70s party hostess from hell, in a stage revival of Mike Leigh’s famous dark comedy Abigail’s Party, in March.
If you remember, Beverley’s buffet highlight is cheese – topped off with pineapple!
Coronation Street’s Lucy Fallon entertains guests
The pineapple after storm damage
Celebrating the launch of Blackpool’s Grand Theatre 125th anniversary appeal
Lucy Fallon with theatre chief executive Ruth Eastwood
Lancastrian Sir Ian Mckellen will be appearing later this year