As the Lights go down on yet another season this coming Sunday at 11pm, it is perhaps a fitting time to offer a centenary tribute to Alfred Black.
He was one of those many imaginative impresarios who, in the immediate post war years, helped make the resort the showbusiness capital of Britain.
Entertainment historian Kenneth Shenton, who has been researching Alfred’s life and times, says: “Together with his brother George, their spectacular run of summer shows delighted a staggering 10m holidaymakers.”
A native of the north east, Alfred Black was born in Sunderland on May 8, 1913 and educated at Durham School.
During the Second World War, while his brother ran the Stars in Battledress entertainment troupe, Alfred served alongside Alan Whicker in the Army Film and Photographic Unit.
In 1942, he married West End leading lady, Roma Beaumont.
Kenneth says: “Inheriting their father’s entertainment agency on his death in 1945, the pair immediately began producing a series of lavishly staged touring revues.
“With breezily upbeat titles, each played to packed houses as a war-weary nation sought an escape from food rationing and fuel shortages.
“Renowned for the ingenuity of the set pieces in their shows, they engaged the finest designers of the day.”
Starting in 1945, with Hip Hip Hooray at the Opera House, starring Jimmy Jewel and Ben Warriss, the dynamic duo enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the Tower Company.
Two years later, at the same venue, they presented Sky High with Charlie Chester, Ken Morris and Arthur Haynes, the show going on to a sell-out season at the London Palladium.
For some 16 years they also presented shows at the Winter Gardens Pavilion and the Palace Theatre.
Kenneth says: “Among the many stars the Blacks brought to Blackpool were Tessie O’ Shea, Terry-Thomas, Harry Secombe, Alma Cogan, Freddie Frinton, Tommy Cooper, Hylda Baker, Thora Hird, Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele, Shirley Bassey, Max Bygraves, Bruce Forsyth, Bob Monkhouse and Ken Dodd.”
In 1957 the brothers acquired the contract for the North East station, Tyne Tees Television.
Eleven years later, writing to the Editor of The Gazette, Alfred penned what could have been a most fitting epitaph: “It has always been our honest endeavour and our privilege to have tried to entertain your holiday audiences. If we have succeeded in transporting, for even a short time, your audiences into a world of make believe, of laughter, happiness and glamour; then all our efforts have been more than rewarded.”
He died, aged 89, on September 15, 2002.