Fruit top­ping for a birth­day treat

Lancashire Life - - WILDLIFE -

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

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