So last week we heard from Jeremy Clarkson and Coleen Nolan on the downsides of Blackpool. From Clarkson I’d expect this, he is hardly renowned for his tact and diplomacy, even though he was perfectly happy to switch on the world famous Blackpool Illuminations back in 2008 – presumably he received a large cheque? Nolan on the other hand is a sandgrown’un, and I’d have liked to think that she would be using her celebrity status to back Blackpool. She hasn’t lived in Blackpool since 2007 which I suppose means she can more easily find fault as opposed to be being an advocate for the many positives, some of which are not so obvious.
No-one is saying that there aren’t problems – but name me a town that doesn’t have its share. What we also have alongside these are a whole swathe of dedicated people who are working to make a positive change, something that for the arts especially altBlackpool was established to profile, and these people give a shit. What we don’t need is people talking the place down.
Writing in her Mirror column Nolan says “I understand Blackpool is struggling under the slump of departed tourists, and I understand the theatres don’t draw the acts they once did.” and I can’t help but think she just hasn’t been paying attention.
According to independent figures published back in January Blackpool has actually seen a rise in visitor numbers taking it to 10.1 million in 2014, and if strolling down the prom on Thursday evening was anything to go by I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them head upwards again. The illuminations have also seen significant investment from the Coastal Communities Fund this year for the Lightpool project adding both modern technology to the display and high quality international artists in the town’s Grundy Art Gallery, something which will only serve to bring more people to our shores.
In terms of the theatres, the Grand have recently announced that the RSC have selected them as one of only thirteen venues to host A Midsummer Nights Dream in 2016; and have been staking out a reputation for bringing some of the best dance to their stage with Breakin’ Convention, DV8’s JOHN and the BalletBoyz to name but a few. Not to mention a fantastic selection of acclaimed productions including The Woman In Black, The History Boys, 1984 and many others.
Up the road at the Winter Gardens they’ve been bringing a taste of the West End to Blackpool with the only production of Cats outside of London taking place earlier in the year and Mamma Mia the year before. Not just that but they have played host to Blur, Fatboy Slim and are set to have dance music extravaganza Blackpool Rocks return to the palatial venue this December.
Our town also has the stunning Showzam! festival of circus and performance taking place each February, last year seeing South American circus stars Circolombia wow the packed-to-bursting Blackpool Tower Circus and is set to welcome French company Akoreacro in 2016. Not just that but Blackpool Council’s ever popular Wordpool festival of words puts on a truly magical family day in the beautiful Stanley Park every year in July.
Blackpool is also lucky to have the support of Arts Council England in the shape of LeftCoast, the Creative People and Places programme working in our town and in Wyre. I should say, I do have a professional connection to them so I am slightly biased, but nevertheless have brought some spectacular productions to town with As The World Tipped at Blackpool Cricket Club and Britannia Waves The Rules more recently at Blackpool and the Fylde College. We can expect more of this with Arts Council announcing only last week a further three years of funding taking the programme to 2019.
Comedians are also flocking to both the Grand and the Winter Gardens with performances from big hitters such as Dawn French, Bill Bailey, Jason Manford, Alan Carr and Michael McIntyre over the past couple of years – giving everyone plenty to chuckle about.
In the independent scene we’re also really blessed to have some hugely talented people who are contributing to our success. Independent music label Must Die Records added the Other Worlds Festival of Experimental Music to our calendar earlier in the year with a host of international musicians to town, while Sand, Sea & Spray brings together some of the world’s finest urban artists to create artwork on the streets. Supercollider contemporary art projects, Abingdon Studios and Blott all add to the growing visual arts scene in the town too with regular exhibitions and space for work to be produced.
I could go on but thankfully The Metro created a handy list of 23 reasons Blackpool is way better than you think so give that a read too if you need any more convincing (though ignore the stock image they’ve used for the Winter Gardens).
None of these things are going to solve alcohol related hospital admissions or houses of multiple occupation however they are contributing to the changes that are taking place throughout our town. They are painting a brighter, more exciting and positive story which we need to celebrate and value every step of the way.
So, Clarkson and Nolan, I implore you – get stuck in and support Blackpool or keep quiet (or at the very least do your research). For my fellow sandgrown’uns remember, we’ve got an awful lot to be proud of in Blackpool so lets not be talked down by people who aren’t bringing anything to the party. I love Blackpool, warts and all, and you should too.
Duncan Hodgson is Editor in Chief and Founder of altBlackpool and Marketing & Audience Development Manager at LeftCoast.
If you love Blackpool and want to tell the world why, join the altBlackpool team.
Images courtesy of CJGriffiths Photography.
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