Forget the Baftas or the Oscars.
In Britain’s premier resort we have the Civvies. Blackpool Civic Trust’s annual awards.
Over the years they have come to epitomise the best of heritage preserved and, more importantly revitalised and the spirit of design excellence which can prevail, even in a cash strapped age, if architects have imagination and innovation.
It’s not some elitist celebration for heritage and historical buffs but the real deal by locals keen to encourage others to appreciate Blackpool is special and we can all make it more so.
Last year Griff Rhys Jones, as president of the national Civic Voice movement, did the honours. But the Civic Trust doesn’t really need VIPs. Last night’s awards ceremony marked the swansong of chairman Elaine Smith who will stand down at the annual meeting next month.
The very first meeting of Blackpool Civic Trust was held 38 years ago – chaired by the late Geoffrey Thompson, with Coun David Owen as secretary. Some of the members at that first meeting are stalwarts of the trust to this day. Geoffrey’s daughter Amanda is a patron.
Blackpool later hosted the national convention to form a an umbrella group for civic societies – known as Civic Voice.
The resort’s own awards reflect the diversity of the town’s civic drive today.
And for the first time they included Environment Shields to commemorate the diamond jubilee of the Queen.
The junior shield went to Boundary Primary School, Grange Park, “a shining of example of how schools can involve whole families in eco projects, and make a difference through fun but practical activities”.
The senior shield went to Blackpool Sixth Form College’s eco action and sustainability groups for energy efficiency and waste-cutting projects cutting the college’s carbon footprint by 10 per cent and paper usage by 24 per cent. Students have worked on the nearby North Blackpool Pond Trail and had their own Go Green Week. It is one of a handful of sixth forms to be awarded the national Eco Schools Green Flag award.
Soccer legend Jimmy Armfield presented the Blackpool Environment Action Team Ltd Award to HMP Kirkham for improving parks and public buildings across the borough, including the rose garden at Crossland Road Park, and renovation of Stanley Park Visitor Centre.
Elaine adds: “It’s a great partnership project and positive force in helping the community and allowing offenders to repay a debt to society.”
Blackpool Council’s Conservation Award went to Maysand Ltd, a specialist masonry restoration firm whose expertise was “invaluable in restoring the Grade II Beach Lift at Warbreck, along with other work at the Floral Hall.”
The Community Award was jointly awarded to community arts and crafts support group Aunty Social, and Homes4Us, which engages with vulnerable or hard to reach children and young people, and supports families.
The Open Spaces award went to St Stephens on the Cliffs, Bispham, for the space created in the wake of flood relief work by United Utilities. Over 200 people were involved. It also features a mosaic by Manchester artist Bernadette Hughes.
Civic trust stalwarts Betty and Danny Bradford, who came up with the idea of a Civic Trust Calendar Girls project, got an award for going “The Extra Mile” for devising the Scarecrow Festival for Salisbury Woodland as part of Civic Day. This year’s scarecrow festival will run from June 14-16.
Best Shop Front went to Abingdon Street Market for “sensitive streetscape restoration bringing life to a building.” Best Night Time Economy went to Viva Blackpool cabaret showbar. Best Building Refurbishment went to The old Bispham Library now known as the Langdale Centre, a “brilliant exercise in the re-use of a historic building, the old library transformed into a sensory activity space for adults with severe learning difficulties.”
Best New Build went to The Oracle next to Palatine Sports College, a youth hub with a “bold contemporary and very Blackpool design and fantastic artwork.”
The Transforming Blackpool Award went to Blackpool Football Club Hotel “for creating something quirky, very Blackpool and pretty stylish.”
And the final award for Outstanding Contribution? Elaine concludes: “We didn’t have to look far for something outstanding and special – and this year a special award went to Blackpool Illuminations for random beauty, excess bling, and all the hard work, dedication and determination of the Lights staff in delivering a succcessful centenary show.”