Great Exhibition of the North could be headed to the seaside

What do Blackpool, Bradford, Newcastle* and Sheffield have in common?  Well they all have football teams that were formerly in the top flight but are currently in lower leagues for one. In arts terms they all have at least one Grade one or Grade 2 listed theatre. Plus, as of yesterday they are all shortlisted in the race to host the Great Exhibition of the North.

If, like me, you hadn’t heard about this before now here are some key details.  The exhibition will be in 2018. It will run for at least two months and it will showcase the creative, cultural and design sectors across the whole of the North. This will provide a welcome boost to arts based investment and tourism in the region.

The government launched this selection process in April earlier this year. As well as the final four there were bids from Halifax, Harrogate, Scunthorpe, St Helens and Whitehaven.  A board selected for the purpose will assess the shortlisted entries before a decision is made by Ministers in the autumn.

Ruth Connor, Chief Executive of Marketing Lancashire said: “We’re delighted to learn that Blackpool, the UK’s favourite seaside resort, is in the running to host the Great Exhibition of the North. Getting through to the next stage speaks volumes about the Lancashire’s ambition as a cultural destination and strengthens Blackpool’s excellent reputation for creating and delivering world class events.

“Our joint bid highlighted that Blackpool has the ability to deliver an imaginative and spectacular exhibition and events programme in collaboration with Lancashire and other northern partners.  The investment made in Blackpool will support the transformation of the visitor economy, by supporting the resort’s vision to make the Winter Gardens a leading UK centre for popular culture.

“The Great Exhibition of the North would showcase the very latest design, innovation and pioneering spirit that continues to thrive both in Lancashire and in the North of England. Creating and making is in our DNA and we’ll be doing our utmost to make sure the Great Exhibition of the North comes to its natural home in Lancashire in 2018.”

Speaking on behalf of Blackpool Council, Deputy Leader Cllr Gillian Campbell, said: “We are delighted that Blackpool has been selected to move into the next phase of this process. The Great Exhibition of the North is a hugely exciting opportunity and one that we firmly believe that Blackpool can deliver for the benefit of all of Lancashire.

“Blackpool has a long history of staging world-class events and we are confident that, given the chance, we can produce something that will truly capture the public’s imagination. We are the perfect location to celebrate the best of art, culture and design across the North of England.”

* Technically it is in fact Newcastle-Gateshead, but that rather spoiled the soccer and thespian links.

Image courtesy of Jill Reidy.

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