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Blackpool’s Galleon Bar Threatened With Closure

A town centre bar that has established itself as a community asset in supporting local musicians and charities is at risk following the Arts Council England’s (ACE) refusal of its application to the Cultural Recovery Fund

Reliant on live music performance and its late licence, the venue has struggled under recurrent lockdowns since March 2020 and the 10pm curfew that was imposed. Now it is reaching the end of its resources.

Musician and owner Stephen Pierre has officially complained to the Arts Council after he was told the Galleon didn’t meet the cultural significance criteria of the funding bid. Cultural institutions in the town were awarded a collective £912,763, with the Grand Theatre accounting for more than half of that. Live music venue Bootleg Social, which hosts established touring acts, was awarded £40,000 and music publishers Hey Buck Ltd received £25,000.

Pierre, who applied for a £60,000 grant, argues that the Galleon offers ACE value for money and that its cultural role has been “downplayed” by the Arts Council. He told Blackpool Social Club the business has provided tutorials and mentoring for young musicians and provided a venue to practise their performance skills. The venue has also supported local charities, including Streetlife, as well as festivals in St John’s Square and the Winter Gardens, including Blackpool Pride. Equality, diversity and inclusion are watchwords for a venue, where all are welcome.

Pierre said: “It is a mystery to me why the Galleon’s obvious cultural role has been downplayed in the way it appears and I do wonder if our bid has been read correctly. Other venues that have been supported are more than worthy of that support, Blackpool needs a diverse cultural and performing arts scene, but when our bid is so small it seems unfair to be effectively penalised as we have been.”

In response to his complaint the Arts Council acknowledged his disappointment but told Pierre it would not review the decision unless he could provide evidence of “maladministration in the decision-making process”.

Pierre said that he appreciates that the Cultural Recovery Funds are limited but that a grassroots venue like The Galleon has been overlooked totally remains disappointing. He continues to press ACE and has also applied to the government’s Department for Culture Media and Sport for a discretionary grant, the outcome of which is yet unknown.  

The Galleon has been a fixture in Blackpool’s nightlife in various guises since the 1950s and the current owner is determined to keep it alive. Local musicians have also rallied to the cause on social media. 

“The Galleon Bar is more than a venue, it’s a team of staff and dedicated customers many of whom have supported it from the start,” Pierre said. “Throughout the pandemic the enterprise has continued to support its staff and local musicians and it looks like that this might all be brought to nought. Live music venues such as ours are not to be squandered.” 

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  • I have worked in the housing and transport professions for several local authorities, specialising in policy, strategy preparation and bid writing. Having always had an interest in film, the visual arts in general, theatre, music and lterature, I thought it would be good to combine the writing experience with these interests to contribute to altBlackpool. In addition to writing, my hobbies include watercolour and pastel painting, photography, woodwork, cycling and vegetable gardening.

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